opinion

Gogglebox's Isabelle Silbery: 'It shouldn’t take a pandemic to remind us to look out for our oldies.'

There’s no doubt this is a challenging time, impacting us on so many levels. At times it feels like a bad sci-fi film or a dream. But it’s our reality: most of us have already been put out — in small ways for most and for others, more dramatic – by the fast developments of the coronavirus as it wends its way across the world and into our communities.

Every day the cases are growing and we are receiving new advice. But one thing has been clear and unchanging from the get-go: older people are most at risk of death.

Last week, my 91-year-old grandma Emmie called me, confused, from the supermarket. She said there was no toilet paper or the regular meat she buys on the shelves, and asked if I knew what was going on.

Like many older people, she visits the supermarket every few days and buys just enough to carry home in her walker. She’s not on social media and rarely watches the news, so I had to explain people were losing their minds and over-buying in response to COVID-19.

Watch: Mamamia’s The Quicky host Claire Murphy breaks down your most asked questions about COVID-19. Post continues below. 

Video by MMC

This call made me both angry and disappointed in humanity. I felt angry that as a society, the response of some people to uncertainty is to grab as much as they can, with no thought to anyone else; particularly our most vulnerable people, and especially older people.

What does this say about us? What happened to society taking care of our older generation? What happened to ensuring they are safe, healthy, happy and at the very least, have enough loo paper?

As things have escalated now to self-isolation, I’m less worried about my own health and my son’s than I am about putting Emmie at risk if I do contract the virus. Although our toilet paper and ‘no sex with strangers’ jokes are helping us keep a sense of humour during this time, our days are focused on making sure Em is ok: making sure she has what she needs as she’s now in isolation at home.

Isabelle Silbery
"What happened to society taking care of our older generation? What happened to ensuring they are safe?." Image: Supplied.
ADVERTISEMENT

I’ve just ordered Emmie’s groceries online because even though the supermarkets have opened the first hour for older people and those with disabilities, it’s very difficult for Emmie to get up and out of the house first thing.

The big question is, how did this move by supermarkets become necessary in our society?

I check in with Em every day and we have all the normal chats — like how many cups of tea make you wee too much, and how the virus is affecting my dating life. I try to keep her smiling and connected to us; even if she’s tucked up in bed with a good book, it makes her feel worthy, safe and at ease. Although she’s in good spirits, she can’t help but worry a little, given her age and weak lungs, about what it would mean for her if she does contract COVID-19.

We all know that older people have their fair share of daily struggles as it is. Keeping active, socially connected, mentally stimulated and physically and financially well, let alone during a health crisis where they are now being advised to self-isolate.

As we see the UK advise all over-70s to self-isolate for four months I wonder, and am seriously concerned about, the long-term implications on their mental health.

Isabelle Silbery
" I try to keep her smiling and connected to us; even if she’s tucked up in bed with a good book, it makes her feel worthy, safe and at ease." Image: Supplied.

It shouldn’t take a virus to make us divert our efforts towards our older generations. They always need us — to stay connected, feel loved and valued. I worry for the ones who don’t have family to keep on top of their groceries, medicines or toilet paper stock — how hard this time could be.

At the same time, I’m hopeful that this crisis might remind us of the power of thinking and acting as a whole community, now and into the future. So check-in with your oldies —it’s our time to give back.

Gogglebox airs on Wednesdays on LifeStyle and on Thursday at 8.30pm on Channel 10. 

For more on this topic:

Feature Image: Instagram/@thesilberys

00:00 / ???