Coronavirus: Elderly need community-level assistance, grandparents NGO says

Nanniet Malta founder Philip Chircop calls for initiatives within Malta's towns and villages to help provide elderly locked inside due to Covid-19 with their shopping and medicine essentials

Philip Chircop. Photo by Ray Attard
Philip Chircop. Photo by Ray Attard

Elderly people who are now confined to their homes due to efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus should be provided with assistance at a local level, within the towns and villages they live in, an NGO representing Malta’s grandparents and ederly has said.

Nanniet Malta founder Philip Chircop told MaltaToday that, while government services to deliver food and medicines to the elderly were good and needed, they should also be complemented by efforts within the island’s different localities to assist the older members of the community.

Chircop said that the government’s lockdown for over-65s, which was announced on Thursday, was a good step and would help ensure that elderly people are protected from the spread of COVID-19, which is known to be more dangerous for vulnerable and older people.

“It’s positive that this measure was put in place. Had the lockdown for people over 65 not been implemented by the government, I think that certain elderly people would let their emotions guide them instead of their minds, and would insist on still taking care of their grandchildren so as to allow the parents to keep going to work,” Chircop underscored.

He said that a lockdown affecting only the 118,000 people who are over 65 was at the moment preferable to a more sweeping measure which would apply to all the population. “It's good that it is not a total lockdown, because younger people can still keep helping out, for instance by doing shopping for the elderly and leaving it at their doorstep,” he said.

Chircop said that some members of the country’s elderly community were facing issues when it came to getting shopping done, due to for instance supermarket delivery services being overwhelmed by orders.

“Some people are booking their orders only to be told they would be delivered in April,” he said, “We must appreciate these issues exist, and we have to solve them.”

In this regard, he called for a drive to have organised voluntary community services at local levels to go hand in hand with the government’s initiative to deliver food and medicine to the elderly. This he said, would be even more important for those older persons who might not have any family members to rely on.

Such a measure could also include local mini-markets dropping off groceries at the doors of elderly persons, and putting the bill on a tab which can be paid once the pandemic subsides. “Your local grocer might be able to do this, but bigger supermarkets such as LIDL can’t,” he noted.

“Let’s try to get something positive from this situation, in the form of solidarity for one and other, especially when it comes to elderly persons who may have been abandoned for years.”

This pandemic had served to highlight how important elderly people were, and how they should not be taken for granted, he said. “We’ve seen how some parents found themselves panicking because the grandparents could no longer care for their grandchildren as a consequence of the new measures. When this passes, we should keep this in mind and not take elderly people for granted.”

Touching on the challenges older people were facing when it came to keeping in touch with the outside world, Chircop also said the elderly should be assisted and educated on using available technology, such as Skype and WhatsApp, to maintain contact with society.