Not being able to spend time with family and friends is the hardest part of lockdown for everyone, particularly the elderly.
Many of New Zealand's aged care facilities are humming social hubs with social groups, clubs, games and activities to participate in. All that is shut down as residents are forced into their units and only allowed to leave for essential reasons or light exercise during the lockdown.
Ngaio Marsh Retirement Village resident Jim Orman was part of a social group at his village known as 'The Naughty Corner' – a group renowned for sitting as close to the bar as possible during happy hour. With no more naughty corner, Orman misses his friends and family but is thankful to have his wife.
Orman and wife Lorraine keep each other company, but some only have their families.
The village allows residents to meet a family member at the gate for a socially distanced chat. Whilst one elderly resident took up the offer, most do not.
To address the loneliness of isolation, some retirement villages and rest homes have crafted lockdown activities like socially distanced musical chairs, Zoom sing-a-longs and birthday celebrations to keep residents socially active and engaged.
A 2017 study of 72,000 older New Zealanders found 21 percent of those over 65 were lonely. Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton says chronic loneliness in older people has worrying mental and physical health consequences.
An American study in 2018 discovered loneliness increased the risk of dementia by 40 percent. Templeton added that stroke and heart risk also increases with loneliness and low social contact.