| 10.7°C Belfast

Let's all unite for older people if they have to self-isolate: watchdog

Eddie Lynch

The Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland has called for the whole community to pull together in a wider, concentrated effort to support the elderly if plans are put in place for isolation for a prolonged period of time.

Eddie Lynch also called on retailers to follow the lead of stores like Lidl, which have already set aside specific shopping times for the elderly amid fears panic-buying will see shelves stripped of essential goods.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday that people aged over 70 will be asked in the coming weeks to self-isolate for up to four months in order to protect them from the virus.

"A move like this will require a wider concerted effort and response from society as if it comes into effect this will obviously have huge implications, both physical and emotional, for older people and their families," said Mr Lynch.

"I can't stress enough that people and organisations will need to pull together to support our older people.

"We've already seen a number of gestures from retailers who have set specific shopping times for older people and I hope that more retailers will follow suit.

"There will be older people who will be wholly relying on the goodness of people in their community and I'm aware of a number of kind gestures being offered on social media. However, it's important to remember that many older people do not have access to social media.

"I would call on the Assembly to set up a free helpline as a matter of urgency, so there is a trusted place that over-70s can go to access information, help and support. While there is absolutely a place for neighbours reaching out and supporting in the community, four months is a long time and we can't solely rely on the goodwill of neighbours.

"In the interim, I would urge people to continue checking on their older relatives, friends, neighbours, help with shopping and supplies if necessary and make sure they know who to call in an emergency.

"You can also help to get them connected online if they aren't already, and continue to follow all the advice to stop spreading the virus."

Belfast Telegraph