There are concerns elderly people are suffering both physically and mentally during lockdown and that it could have an impact on their health going forward.
By Katie Stevenson
International research has shown prolonged lockdowns can worsen things like heart failure, anxiety and depression.
Dr Hamish Jamieson from the University of Otago's Department of Medicine said medical conditions can be exacerbated by the stress of lockdown.
“It makes a lot of medical conditions worse ... it makes anxiety and depression worse ... it can make heart failure and pain worse.”
It’s thought more than 500,000 Kiwis over the age of 70 are isolating at home and the researcher and geriatrician worries issues seen after the last lockdown will re-emerge this time.
“Older people weren't visiting their GPs enough and when they did come. when the levels dropped and they went to see their general practitioners, they were a lot sicker than they would have,” he said.
There’s also a spotlight on mental health.
Age Concern chief executive Stephanie Clare said loneliness is an epidemic in itself.
“Loneliness can really have an impact on your day to day thinking. It can make you quite upset; it can make you quite scared; it can sort of separate you from what the world is doing,” she said.
She said everyone can play their part in supporting older people in the community.
“Actually acknowledge someone over the fence, say hello when you're passing by - actually picking up the phone to an older relative, to an older friend.”
A simple gesture goes a long way to help those doing it alone.