In an effort to correct a shortfall in central funding, the Mayor of London has taken the route of diversifying stringent controls over Londoners. Amongst these measures, in order to control the spread of COVID19, has been to impose measures on older Londoner – those eligible for a Freedom Pass, which enabled them to travel across London at any hour of the day or night.
The new measures mandate that the Freedom Pass can be used only after 0900 in the morning, and not between the hours of 0430 and 0900. Needless to say, this poses an inconvenience for any Freedom Pass user who would have otherwise used public transport to keep an early appointment. Most [early] hospital appointments, for example are given to older people. I myself have experienced being given regular 0815 appointments at a hospital in Surrey, which necessitated getting ready nearly two hours before. Oh, the joy of getting out of bed around 0500 to be ready for transport at 0715. If we were lucky we would just about make it to the hospital on time. If you’re wondering why older people are often offered appointments earlier in the day, I can tell you that it is because some older patients are afflicted with allergic reactions to latex. This restricts the use of standard issue latex gloves in their case, and so they’re usually scheduled first, after which the doctors scrub up in preparation for the regular cohort.
Imagine someone of my years having to be up so early to cross the city! For many of my appointments I eschewed my Freedom Pass for the journey, thankful for the fact that I was transported. When circumstances changed and transport was no longer provided but my appointments continued to be scheduled in the early hours, I was forced to cancel.
There have been numerous proclamations about “older people”, but we do not all age in the same way, and while there are common issues we face as we age, some sense of nuance should be borne in mind with regards to the range of experiences constituted by older people. Some have to go to work for different reasons. Some people over the age of 60 still have a mortgage and/or other loans, which they must work to pay. To legislate that they cannot travel to those jobs during peak time contravenes their liberty and livelihood. Some over 60s are active, and are invested in voluntary work. We must not forget that during the Cameron years we were told to volunteer. At a PAiL meeting, Messrs Russel Taylor, and Simon Wilkinson of the DWP educated us on different models for volunteering. There are many benefits of volunteering, and people should be able to do so if they wish. Getting out of the house for some people helps them retain their sanity.
Worthy of mention is the notoriety of the Mayor of London’s decision to engage in a trend of, in addition to legislating for when the over 65s may travel, does not seem to consider that some people cannot walk or cycle, and need their cars to get around. The Dial A Ride is not conducive to everyone.
The cycification of the roads and highways does little to help the environment. Lanes are reduced, and cycle lanes are expanded, as are the pedestrians areas. When the lanes are narrowed, and the speed limits reduced, this results in more pollution and congestion. If the desired outcome is to increase capital to augment Government budgets we might find that this is not the result, especially when this is not made public. Setting planters and bollards at junctions to impede the flow of traffic and cause delays in an emergency.
Even at the best of times, older people are often neglected by public policy. But now, particularly with COVID-19 overshadowing everything, it’s too easy to feel as if older people are uncared for, and even sacrificed for the benefit of others. From the lack of proper provisions for PPE in care homes and the implementation of “do not resuscitate” (DNR orders) in spite of a patient’s wishes (although these orders were reportedly put in place for the wellbeing of the medical staff carrying them out, in order to protect them from the possibility of contracting the virus from the kind of proximity required for resuscitation) to the masses of lockdown protestors and COVID-19 deniers who refuse to wear masks in spite of the fact that their actions may well not impact themselves, but are much more likely to impact older people who they may unwittingly be responsible for passing the virus on to. We are beset on all sides, and things must surely change. As we stare down the barrel of a cold and physically distanced winter, it’s unlikely that any positive change will come soon, but we must continue to proselytise our needs. People feel inconvenienced by the new arrangement add they are discouraged from going about their daily routine..
By Bridgit A Sam-Bailey (Ms)