Social Distancing Isn’t Social Isolation

The lack of modern technology may be an obstacle for our elderly living alone during the emergency self-isolation period to combat Covid-19.

Regular news updates on the internet and social media are how many people in self-isolation are connecting to the outside world, but it’s a technology that may not be accessible to our elderly.

Chair of the Aitutaki Enua Society Manika Glassie says families, communities and government agencies should be reaching out to our most vulnerable to ensure they are safe and are fully informed.

“Statistically speaking, a lot of our people have financial burdens and have restrictions to what they can afford. So it’s understandable that our elderly may not have the means to have computers or be connected to the internet.”

He says during this critical period, community groups and agencies with elderly clients on their databases, should be contacting them.

“Find out how they are and if they need anything. Family and friends should do the same. I’ve gone through my contacts on my phone and I’ve called several of my family members and friends, to see if they are okay and need any help.”

Television and radio is one of the ways for our elderly to stay informed but the social connection is just as important, says Manika. He hopes that during this critical time the younger generation takes the opportunity to step up and reach out to their elderly family members.

“It’s about being generous and upholding that friendly community connection.”

Dr Etu Ma’u, an aged care psychiatrist and member of the Pasifika Medical Association, says his department has been overwhelmed with work during the crisis and his elderly clients need all the help and support they can get from their family and friends.

“We are struggling to provide mental health care for the elderly from a distance. The main message is that social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. We need to stay connected with people and touch base with them to make sure they’re okay because four weeks is a very long time.”

He says Pacific communities might struggle with the isolation period because of our culture.

“Pacific cultures are built around really strong social structures and our community are going to feel the impact. That’s why we have to maintain that constant contact so our elderly do not feel isolated.”

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Date: Sunday 29 March 2020