Lockdown exit for Leeds over 60s: Rebuilding social ability and confidence is first step
Rebuilding social confidence and abilities will be the first step in helping older people in Leeds get back out into society as the lockdown continues to ease.
Those involved in a city-wide operational group to support over 60s during the pandemic say that people most severely impacted by a year of shielding and lockdowns could find they struggle physically or mentally when the time comes to get back out there.
"People aren’t used to talking. If you’re on your own in your house, you’ve actually stopped that. It was interesting about needing to rebuild strength and confidence in your voice."
Ms Jackson heads up the operational group, formed in September, which brings together public health staff, health services, third sector bodies, social care and housing teams.
Its members include Rachel Cooper, chief executive of Leeds Older People's Forum (LOPF).
"I think people are definitely feeling that optimism from the vaccinations, combined with spring bringing about the opportunity for people to be able to get out and about much more safely," she said.
"We think the first step is around people’s social ability and confidence, then that moves onto their physical ability so they can get around more easily. For a lot of older people, it might be one or two years."
While many people are excited about the prospect of no longer having to stay at home, they might also be feeling nervous.
Ms Jackson said one of the group's areas of focus was how to encourage older people to come back out and be part of communities again after a year when they have been told they are at great risk.
She said: "It will be very much about working with the local third sector in terms of support for people to get back out but, at the same time, you’re working at the primary care level to start to have some of those conversations as well with older people."
This is where GPs like Dr Lesley Freeman, part of the team at Oulton Medical Centre, come into play.
"It’s about using every contact with somebody across all our healthcare staff," she said. "We want to encourage people as well if they need support and help, it’s important for them to be able to access that and come to us.
"People shouldn’t feel that because of Covid, whatever is happening to them is not important. We need to know about it."
A clinical director for the Primary Care Network serving LS25 and LS26 and clinical lead for frailty at Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, she added: "During the initial lockdown, there wasn’t that much contact as people were very afraid. Since then, we’re trying to get back to business as usual. There’s lots of support out there."
Ms Cooper said that whatever people’s age, it was important for support organisations to recognise that they need to go at each person's pace.
She said: "It might just start with a walk down the street and back, or getting to a shop. One of our member organisations supported an older gentleman going to the local shop and he had a panic attack on the way. It was definitely down to the isolation due to the pandemic."
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