Portrait of Elderly man lost in thought
Portrait of Elderly man lost in thought

Horrific impact of isolation on single aged pensioners

ANGLICARE North Queensland program manager community support services and volunteer Theresa Roberts is horrified by the loneliness single aged pensioners have faced during the coronavirus crisis.

She is in the midst of doing something about it, putting out a call for the donation of a minibus so she can create a socialisation program for the region's seniors.

"We have seen major problems which Anglicare would really like to address in the next couple of months - single aged pensioners in isolation and how lonely they are," she said.

"There are stories of them ringing up the local MPs and crying their eyes out.
"Anglicare is trying to put a program together where we go out and pick up the seniors and take them out for a coffee."

They have the perfect venue already.

Anglicare owns Movenpick & The Yummy Sandwich & Juice Parlour on the Cairns Esplanade. It's a social enterprise supporting young people with employment opportunities.

Anglicare get set for work progam team members Josh Flaherty, Sue Walton and Theresa Roberts in the Movenpick store where they get young people ready for the workforce. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
Anglicare get set for work progam team members Josh Flaherty, Sue Walton and Theresa Roberts in the Movenpick store where they get young people ready for the workforce. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

"There wouldn't be any charge to the aged pensioners," Ms Roberts said.

"Now that things are opening up there wouldn't be any harm with taking four or five people in a big minibus for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake, or a sandwich and a cup of tea.

"We would all be COVID safe.

"We just need someone to say 'hey I've got a spare minibus', It doesn't have to be anything flash and as soon as we've got the minibus we can go the next day."

Anglicare North Queensland volunteers stepped up to the plate during coronavirus' biggest impact on Far North Queensland just weeks ago.

Theresa Roberts, at the Anglicare food bank and opportunity shop on Lake Street. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Theresa Roberts, at the Anglicare food bank and opportunity shop on Lake Street. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

As senior volunteers needed to take a backseat during the outbreak, new blood stepped in, Ms Roberts said, including a few Care Army members.

"Our older volunteers will come back to us once restrictions ease, when it's safe and they feel safe I would love them to come back," she said.

"We've helped so many seniors where we've gone and sat with them, gone for a coffee with them or taken them out shopping.

"I've seen several people that have got Alzheimer's coming on, so it's arranging appointments for them where they haven't got anyone to help them. I say to my volunteers its being that friendly face and talking to them, sitting with them and watching telly and having a piece of cake."

The annual Seniors Week joins mass event cancellations throughout the region.

The Cairns Regional Council event was traditionally held in August and was cancelled as a result of "ongoing coronavirus restrictions and the need to protect the most vulnerable people in our community", according to a council spokesman.

Daphne Stevenson of Edmonton has fun exercising with the Zumba Gold activity at the Positive Ageing Fair, as part of Seniors Week, which has been cancelled this year. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN
Daphne Stevenson of Edmonton has fun exercising with the Zumba Gold activity at the Positive Ageing Fair, as part of Seniors Week, which has been cancelled this year. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN

As for smaller social groups and classes, life is slowly returning to a kind of normal for Far North Queensland seniors.

Cairns social group Starts at 60 has had the go-ahead from head office to fire up its monthly gatherings again.

The meetings were held at a DFO cafe, which has since closed, leaving host Rod Hooper delaying Starts at 60's return until the first Tuesday of August as he looks for a new location.

"We actually suspended it on advice from the head office and I received an email from them today saying hey we are all good to go again in July, but we won't be equipped to handle it," he said.

"The location we were having it at has closed so we have to look for a new location."

For more information about Starts at 60, contact Mr Hooper, ph: 0412 898 450. If anyone can support Anglicare in its search for a minibus, ph: 4041 5454 or 0436 608 697.

The Seniors of Far North Queensland magazine is published on Thursday, July 2, in the Cairns Post.

Originally published as Horrific impact of isolation on single aged pensioners


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