Wexford People

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‘You are terrified to show the white flag, to show you’re afraid’

As the most 'at risk' demographic these are worrying times for Wexford's elderly community, Simon Bourke reports

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Kevin Molloy

Kevin Molloy

Kevin Molloy

As someone within the 'at-risk' category Kevin Molloy is one of the thousands of Irish people who know that, were they to contract the coronavirus, their lives may be in danger.

The current Chairperson of the Wexford Older People's Council, Kevin is in daily contact with the county's elderly populace and he says there is a sense of fear among them not previously experienced.

'It's a very difficult one for us as old people, we feel vulnerable at the moment. A lot of our meetings have already been cancelled and cut back. It's quite worrying, you're just waiting for something to happen. But what do you do? The world has to try and live.

'As an older person I've seen many a crisis, but this one seems to be the most frightening. They're comparing it to the Spanish Flu, but they didn't have the same forms of communication back then.'

Kevin lives alone in Gorey, but has a large extended family and his chief concern is the disease being transmitted communally during one of their visits to his home.

'We're told to keep two metres away from people but what if you have a family? I'm trying to live a normal life, but I haven't been out as I have an underlying problem.

'I have six children, plus their spouses, and 18 grandchildren. That's 30 people, and if we were to follow what's being said eight of those will contract the virus. It's scary.'

Bearing that in mind, Kevin says he is taking every possible precaution before allowing visitors into his home.

'I have granchildren who attend various colleges throughout the country and they're coming back and visiting the house. When they come to the house I tell them, "will you ever wash your hands". They're coming in and out a lot, I'm depending on them to come and get my things.

'I managed to get a small container of disinfectant, I have it on the table and I tell them to use it every time they come in. I always try and follow the best advice but this is worrying.'

Following updates on the news and adhering to the advice given out by the HSE and our political figureheads, Kevin says some of the reaction to the illness has been inappropriate, particularly on social media.

'I've seen people on Facebook making fun of this, making a joke of it, but it's not funny. People shouldn't be making fun of those of us who are taking precautions.

'As I sit here I like to think I'm a rational person, but I feel worried in my own self. And if I'm worried I wonder how other people are feeling. You're terrified to show the white flag, to show you're afraid, you're afraid to show the flag. And I wouldn't be someone who is easily scared, there will be people who will be more scared than I am.'

A further concern is the closure and cancellation of clubs and events regularly attended by elderly people. Kevin believes this will have a huge knock-on effect for those concerned.

'I'm part of Active Retirement Ireland, and a lot of those centres have closed their clubs right around the country. They're not meeting, not having any activities.

'That will have huge side effects in terms of loneliness, isolation. People are afraid to go out. There's a lot of scary things happening.'

Even though Kevin has people he can rely upon to collect food and other supplies on his behalf, he says this comes with it's own problems.

'I went to the local coal yard yesterday to get some coal. And my family said, "you don't go out, let someone else do it". But what does that do for your self-confidence?'

However, one thing which offers Kevin some solace is the community spirit which is fostered during times like this.

'We've got to try and do away with this panic situation, try and reassure one another, but I don't know how we can do that. But as we saw with the snow, society hasn't lost it all, there's still some resilience there. I'm sure everyone will row in.'

Meanwhile, Wexford Active Retirement Assocation (WEXARA) has postponed its scheduled trip to The National Art Gallery in Dublin on March 18 and all other activities for the time being.

'This decision, which hasn't been taken lightly, is based on the increasing risks coronavirus poses for our members given our age profile,' explained Chairperson Eamonn Kennedy.

'As we move forwards, we will be adopting HSE guidance in responding robustly to the ever increasing spread of the coronavirus.'

Discussing the mood among the group's members, Eamonn believes the abiding feeling is confusion rather than fear.

'It's more confusion than fear. Some of our members are getting mixed messages as to how serious it is. We are a vulnerable group, more so than the rest of the population, so we just need to heed the advice of the media and the HSE.'

However, some of that advice has caused Eamonn concern.

'My only real concern is that, listening to Simon Harris, he seems to be implying that the rest of the population, the less vulnerable, don't need to take it as seriously as we do.

'It sounds as if he's saying to young people you needn't worry. But we're all in this together. And the risk for young people is they could jeopardise the welfare of their grandparents. We all have a part to play.'

Yet through it all the Butlerstown native is maintaining a positive attitude.

'I feel very optimistic, it all depends on your outlook. I'm thinking positively, it will be resolved, perhaps later rather than sooner, we all just need to keep safe.'

Elsewhere ALONE, the organisation that supports older people has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. ALONE is a member of the National Public Health Emergency Vulnerable People Subgroup.

Professional staff will be available to answer queries and give advice and reassurance where necessary. The support line will be open Monday to Friday, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024, and hours may be extended to meet the demand.

Gorey Guardian