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OP-ED: Seniors Struggle with State Restrictions

Sunday 20 September 2020, The Examiner

It's widely accepted that looking after ourselves and keeping healthy means more than just eating well and getting regular exercise.

It also means taking care of our mental health, our emotional wellbeing and our sense of belonging.

The feedback loop between our physical, mental and emotional health is also well established and nothing has brought this to light more than the advent of COVID-19.

At the very least, it has resulted in a change in our routines, a limitation on who we see and when, and for some of us, has meant a loss in our jobs and an unravelling of our mental and physical health.

At this stage, we are obviously still in the midst of the pandemic and there isn't really any good idea about when things will go back to the way they were - if at all.

However, adapting to these strange new circumstances has affected us all differently.

In terms of the main response to COVID-19, I like many others, commend the Government on their prompt and effective response in suppressing the coronavirus.

As we handle the virus while returning to some semblance of normality, we are encountering some tricky situations.

Our school leavers, for example, who are now allowed to hold their leavers dinners with the traditional dinner and dance, can expect to end their year with a bit of normalcy, in very unusual circumstances.

Part and parcel of the coronavirus restrictions is getting used to staying closer to home and making our existing hobbies and recreational activities a bit more hygiene-friendly, with social distancing, seating requirements and hand sanitiser now a part of everyday life.

In part, we have been able to manage getting back to business with these requirements reasonably well.

For example, we're seeing more of our sports coming back and more of our eateries open for business.

For others, there is a mutual incompatibility with the activity and the coronavirus requirements, such as dancing in a nightclub, being now completely ruled out of the question.

Another person in their 80s says that now they just sit around, they feel older than they are and that their outlook on life is less happy than it was.

In the past couple of weeks, I have been hearing from a number of constituents about this rule - not from the younger, more night club-oriented contingent - but from our older ranks.

These are the people who like to head out to their local club for example, for a bite of lunch, a little refreshment and a dance one afternoon a week.

I have received a number of letters from people to whom this once-weekly activity means the absolute world.

One of these letters, the author of whom I will keep anonymous, has said "our social life, at our age has a limited span and we are feeling the effects of lack of exercise in the form of depression and isolation... at our age we don't drink - we drive".

Another person in their 80s says that now they just sit around, they feel older than they are and that their outlook on life is less happy than it was.

Yet another writer says that their doctor has said "please don't stop dancing" because it is so good for their heart health.

Others have special physical needs and the movement and music helps them to relax and have an afternoon of enjoyment.

Being able to move, having a cuppa or maybe a small glass of wine or beer, sandwich and a good chat with their mates is an absolute necessity and highlight of these people's week.

Of the numerous letters in my possession there is one common thread: the overwhelming concerns about the mental health implications of having a much-loved recreational and physical activity stymied.

Of course, solutions like having separate food and drinking areas at these venues have been explored, but the rules state that as soon as someone leaves the dancing area to the food and drink area, they can't return.

For younger people at their leavers dinners, this might not be such a problem, but for older people this is a bit harder when they need more frequent rests.

Moreover, venues are more or less obliged to sell food and drink for these events, otherwise they would be trading at a significant loss to pay for staff, music and other costs without any way to meet their obligations.

Many people are feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I reiterate that I believe the Government has done an exceptional job suppressing the virus in Tasmania and I know they are doing everything they can to accommodate as many people as possible.

I foresee the detrimental results this particular issue will have for our older contingency however, with the mental, physical and social effects manifesting, and many pleading to be allowed to do what they love.

I hope that very soon, a reasonable and common sense solution can be reached.

Rosemary Armitage, independent Launceston MLC


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