social isolation is crippling some of Central Otago’s most vulnerable residents.

As alert levels moved up, down, then up again amid Covid-19 outbreaks, some of the district’s older population have become too anxious to leave their homes.

Alexia Johnston reports.

Confinement to the home since the Covid-19 outbreak is proving ahard habit to break for some Central Otago residents.

Alexandra man Bruce Flawn (74) spent ‘‘months and months’’ at home, initially too scared to go out for fear of getting the virus.

Mr Flawn’s downward spiral started on March 6 after he had surgery to remove cataracts.

He returned home from hospital and did not leave the house while he was recuperating and then lockdown happened.

Eventually, not leaving home became a case of habit, he said.

It was a far cry from the many years he spent enjoying his crib at Papatowai, in the Catlins.

‘‘This time last year I had been to the crib for about 60 nights,’’ Mr Flawn said.

He believes he would be just as lonely there as he is in his home these days.

Central Otago Age Concern co-ordinator Marie Roxburgh said for many of the people on her books aged 65 or older, the lockdown had been the ‘‘pinnacle’’ of a lifestyle decline.

Mr Flawn agreed. ‘‘It’s been a trigger. We’ve had to sit here and do nothing. Now it’s an effort to think outside that.’’

Mr Flawn is not an Age Concern client. Instead, he had been helping the organisation’s accredited visiting service before the outbreak and has just resumed.

The only other time he gets out is to go to the supermarket once a month or the library, something he has only started doing again in recent weeks.

‘‘Before lockdown I was getting out more and I would be gardening, but I don’t get out there now,’’ he said.

‘‘I just can’t get myself moving again, that’s the thing. I’ve got so used to doing nothing.’’

Mrs Roxburgh said for some people struggling to get back into their old routines, the lockdown was too long and the expectation to sign in to shops and use hand sanitiser was overwhelming.

‘‘People got a bit of anxiety and now some are too scared to go out.’’

Lockdown meant Age Concern’s visiting service could not take place during the most severe alert levels.

Instead, volunteers spoke to clients on the phone. ‘‘Some were starting to feel a bit more relaxed and then Level 2 happened again.’’

Many of those people who received visits lived alone.

Some had resumed the life they had before Covid-19, while others had opted to stay home more to limit the risk, or because they did not want to go out more than necessary.

Age Concern’s visiting service had gone ‘‘berserk’’ since the outbreak because families had become aware of the social isolation their loved ones were experiencing, Mrs Roxburgh said.

Alzheimer’s Otago community educator Donna Watt said the lockdown was difficult for some of her clients because they were unable to access some services.

Among the services was Club Enliven at Ranui Court Retirement Village.

Other support networks had also been stopped, including visits from family members who had previously helped in practical ways and regular coffee groups.

A major source of stress was when family members could not visit their loved ones in care facilities.

‘‘That was extraordinarily difficult emotionally.’’

Many people had seen a real change in their loved ones post lockdown, and they felt the absence of family members during that time had taken its toll, she said.

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