Millions of pensioners have been “crushed” by lockdown, with many vulnerable people losing confidence, mobility and functions such as memory, a major report shows.
Age UK said the lockdown restrictions had left many vulnerable people isolated and anxious, without the support they needed. It warned that Covid-19 has “hit the fast-forward button on ageing”, with a substantial group of people left “frightened, depressed and very much alone”.
Its polling of 1,364 pensioners found that, since lockdown, around a quarter cannot walk as far as they used to, with one third becoming more anxious and one fifth suffering a deterioration in memory. Two thirds felt less confident taking public transport, while two in five were worried about going to the shops and quarter were unsure about spending time with family.
Age UK, which is launching a winter resilience campaign to help boost older people’s health and morale, collected testimonies from older people and their families. One older man said he feels like “a prisoner in my own home”, and the partner of another said the pandemic has “stolen his freedom and life”.
A pensioner in her 70s said: “I have cancer. To get up day after day knowing that you can’t see the people you love is extremely hard. This might be my last summer or last year of my life, and I can’t do the things that make me happy.”
Age UK said a “sizeable minority” of older people are finding life incredibly tough, with those already ill or living with long-term health conditions the most likely to report challenges.
Many older people are living with “increased and sometimes devastating” levels of anxiety, afraid to go out because they are at serious risk from coronavirus. Months of reduced exercise have led to muscle weakness and mobility problems, while cognitive decline is believed to have been exacerbated by the isolation caused by the pandemic.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said: “This pandemic is tough for everyone, but older people have the added anxiety of knowing that for them the risks of catching Covid-19 are higher.
“We have rightly heard a lot about the enormous problems facing older people in care homes, but this new research reveals that life is extremely challenging for many cooped up for month after month in their own homes too.
“According to this research, as many as a third of all older people really are struggling and, given the reluctance of this age group to admit their difficulties and ask for help, we suspect that in reality the numbers affected are considerably higher – running into millions, without doubt.
“Fear of the virus, loss of mental and physical capacity, loneliness and isolation and an inability to grieve as normal for those they have lost add up to a potential public health emergency affecting many older people.”