For many weeks going out has been a ‘no go’ area for senior citizens especially. ‘STAY AT HOME’ has been the repeated message at the daily government press conferences since the COVID-19 scare arrived at our front door…! So how’s it been, for our over 70s
Well into retirement past your seventh decade for most seniors, spare time on your hands is in abundance. Doing a bit of shopping, visiting family members and friends or just going out for a stroll and sitting at your favourite cafe for a coffee, is a very welcomed must. However, for the past three months our OAPs have been advised to sit tight and watch as much Netflix or cable TV as you could absorb along with tasty snacks – apart from your main meals – beverages or other tipples in order to while the time away because over 70s – we were told – were most vulnerable to catch the potentially, deadly Corona Virus, so staying at home was the safest place to be. One octogenarian I know, who loves being out for a walk (at a pace) and chatting away to his heart’s contentment over a coffee or meeting friends and acquaintances in Main Street or elsewhere is Manolo Ruiz, spokesman of Gibraltar’s Senior Citizen’s Association… “I like keeping my mind active so I’m glad to talk about how it’s been over this period. In a situation like this the advice being given is sensible and has to be taken seriously so going out was for me a definite ‘No No’.” Manolo said despite being bored at times that was his advice to other seniors too, who would contact him about what to do whilst enjoying a pleasant chat.
But Manny said how much he missed going out meeting people. Within his work running the association, he, like so many others, had to put issues concerning the Rock’s seniors on the back burner, not being able to keep appointments with government officials and sometimes ministers, not to mention the ‘Tea for Two’ sessions for our ‘oldies’ held once monthly at one of the rowing clubs, which were recently introduced and running very successfully… “Yes, I miss helping organising them with Sophie and Jason and am dying to get them going again.”
Hibernating at home however, stocking up with food, Manolo told me it ran quite smoothly without a hitch. “Maybe I was one of the lucky ones as family members and neighbours went out of their way to see my wife and I had everything we needed, from food items to medical prescriptions. I must say a couple of our neighbours were extremely helpful always asking if we wanted anything from the shops. They were brilliant. And it was great to hear the amount of volunteers out there willing to help, with supermarkets and other businesses offering deliveries and other services working hard supplying what was needed.”
4pm was an important juncture during Manolo’s lockdown day tuning in to the government’s daily press conference in order to keep in touch with the latest on Covid-19… “From my telephone chats, I know there were some seniors, who would not switch on because they didn’t want to know about Covid-19 or any other disruption to their daily lives, but there were some interesting chats once the conference was over. One particular person even kept a graph with the information given and would better explain the situation more easily as the virus progressed or otherwise, He was very interesting and it also helped to relieve the boredom!”
This Senior Citizen also has praise for the administration’s handling of the whole affair not having heard any adverse comments from those he chats to or exchanges emails with. “We must be conscious of the policy decisions being taken and the fact that so far (at the time of writing) there have been no deaths and the virus seems to, at this stage at least, been pretty much controlled.”
Also, all of Manolo’s contacts agree the RGP have to intervene with ‘law’ or ‘advice’ breakers, which they all felt, was scandalous having officers sending people home or even arresting them. That was terrible. Summer’s here and things are bound to get more difficult with many heading for the beaches and open spaces, so there again the law enforcers have their work cut out. But it hasn’t all been doom and gloom and Manny too, praises the work of GHA workers, carers and others on the frontline looking after all of us.
Things are a little better now for the seniors, who can now enjoy Commonwealth Park and other open spaces and a little mingling with loved ones and friends… “What I’ve missed the most are the simpler things in life,” Mr Ruiz says, “The simple pleasantries of going out for a walk, chatting to people, the morning coffee…and the sheer FREEDOM of it all!”
Text By Richard Cartwright