At the end of last month, a Sky News report gave a stark insight into a profound sense of isolation our elders have been hit by during lockdown. A study showed that almost nine out of ten older people say their ‘social contact has reduced significantly during the pandemic’. Another lady told the channel that, still being forced to stay at home constantly by the government, Johnson’s latest address to the nation was “like a guillotine coming down”.
Walking through my local station in Potters Bar on Saturday afternoon, a fragile elderly lady with a walking aid called me over to ask whether I could help her buy a return train ticket to nearby Welwyn Garden City via the machine. Of course, no problem at all I said. She kept apologising, explaining her poor eye sight and confusion with machines, leaving me a ten pound note as I searched the station and ticket on the touch screen dash board.
I sympathised, saying I sometimes struggle finding different fares on the machine, and get frustrated with no staff around at the office to help. even in the middle of the day like this. Thanking me profusely, I left her the ticket and her change, smiling and wishing her a good day. As I walked away I wondered, had I not stopped to help in a deserted station, her train soon to depart, how she might have coped? The sad reality, I concluded, was that she wouldn’t. Helpless, this would have been the guillotine coming down.
Essential everyday services have made elders feel ostracised from society, tasks such as online food shopping and personal banking becoming a real challenge. Their generation don’t feel they are catered for, treated with a cold indifference by supermarkets and banks in the process. Taking to social media, one lady posted on Facebook: “My 95 year old mother, just out of hospital, cannot access a delivery slot. Surely in this day in age you should be able to identify your elderly customers”.
Jennifer, 70, from Dawlish in South London told Sky News: “We live in a society that, if it breaks down, the first people to suffer will be elderly people”. The same report found that ‘Although plenty of people are tech-savvy, Office for National Statistics figures show 2.5 million over -75’s had never used the internet in 2019’. Recently, modern video apps have fallen out of favour, both the young and old at first zealously embracing Zoom, before the novelty started to wear off.
As Tom Whipple, Science Editor of The Times wrote on Monday: ‘Technology has been our saviour during lockdown, a way that grandparents can still see grandchildren and colleagues can still hold morning meetings. Yet in the back to back teleconferencing followed by back to back tele-socialising we have found that we are missing more than just touch’. As a result, media companies have termed the experience ‘Zoom fatigue’.
The initial trendiness of Zoom has turned to tedium as we yearn for real human interaction. Researching the psychology of teleconferencing at Stanford University, Jeremy Bilenson said: “ What we are seeing is the challenges of synchrony, and also the exhaustion that comes from eye contact’. Tired of technology, we must ask: are we truly enabled? If we were honest with ourselves, we would probably discover otherwise.