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‘I loathe the word cocooning’: Over-60s share experience of lockdown

Original article featured in The Irish Times. Link to article is here.

Loneliness, anxiety and feeling ‘diminished’ among issues cited in Trinity College report

Loneliness, anxiety, and dislike of the word cocooning were among the issues cited by people aged 60 and over when asked about their experience of the first wave of the Covid -19 emergency last year.

However, many of the almost 4,000 respondents to a questionnaire from researchers at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), also spoke of resilience and of finding reasons to feel positive despite the pandemic, a report published on Tuesday shows.

“I felt like a prisoner during lockdown,” said James (74), who is quoted in the report.i> “Not seeing most of my brothers and sisters for six months; not joining my friends in the pub at weekends.”

Karen (68) said: “Diminished is the word that best describes how I feel.”

“I went from [being] a part-time working, grandchildren-minding, school runs, swimming classes, meal-giving grandparent, to a locked-in, not consulted, not engaged adult.”

Martha (71), whose family would visit but talk to her from the end of the driveway outside her house, said: “Loneliness was the biggest factor as I did the full lockdown.

“Mother’s day and my birthday were terrible. They lit candles on a cake on the wall and sang happy birthday. I cried my eyes out.”

Philly (76) was annoyed that some members of the public did not think the public health precautions applied to them, and that the recommendations were not enforced.

“I loathe the word ‘cocooning’,” she added.

The report, In Their Own Words: The Voices of Older Irish People in the Covid-19 Pandemic, has been published by The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda) at TCD.

It records people’s feelings about being cut off from family, workplace, social activities and religious services, during a period when the bulk of those who were dying with Covid-19 were aged 70 years and over.

“I am extremely angry that I had to cocoon,” said Willie (80). “The person who came up with the idea of cocooning should be made to experience it first-hand.”

Meanwhile, Martha (60) told the researchers: “Had to close our business after 40 years.”

“I could not believe how emotional it was. No income was very strange. Not working [was] very difficult mentally at first. Not able to pay our mortgage... That we had broken our lovely world and taken so much for granted.”

Heather (65) said: “My husband died in March and while we were able to have a funeral for him, which we thank God for, the loneliness of being in lockdown really made my grief so much worse.”

Pádraig (81) said: “I have missed the simple things in life, for example shopping, going to Sunday Mass, getting a haircut.”

The report has many examples of people expressing a sense of appreciation despite, or even because of, the restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

“The actual lockdown was a quiet reflective time and my husband (who is on .”

“I test positive for faith, keep my distance from doubt, and isolate myself from fear.”

The respondents were also asked what the were looking forward to when the pandemic ended.

Pat (60) said he was looking forward to enjoying life again and having no fear, to appreciating “life and everything, and everyone, better.”

Reggie (86) said he was looking forward to “just doing what needs to be done and not have to think about health restrictions.”

Delia (67) said she was looking forward to doing painting and yoga classes in person, and dressing up for a night out.

The music lessons she had been doing during the lockdown had been online, and that had been “definitely no fun”.