A CONSULTANT has voiced concerns about any potential ‘bans’ on older people accessing activities like golf and tennis, saying as long as people adhere to the guidance set out by the Government, there is no reason why they should be excluded.
Emer Ahern, a consultant geriatrician at Cork University Hospital, said she was concerned about reports that some tennis and golf clubs may not permit players over 70 to attend when they first begin allowing players to return.
Ahead of a potential change to restrictions on Monday — which would allow some tennis and golf clubs to open — Tennis Ireland has prepared guidance for clubs, players, and coaches to follow during phase one of the reopening of tennis.
In its advice to clubs, it says that a player must be aged under 70 to access the courts in this phase of the reopening.
The Golfing Union of Ireland has officially advised that it is up to each individual aged over 70 to decide for themselves, “based on their own circumstances, living arrangements and potential for contact with others at certain times, whether playing golf is compatible with the HSE’s advice on cocooning”.
However, at least one golf club in Cork has advised that access to the course will not be available to people who are cocooning.
Ms Ahern said those aged over 70 need to follow public health advice like everybody else including washing their hands, ensuring they practice sneezing and coughing etiquette, practicing physical distancing, and not travelling outside of the range of 5km from their home.
“As long as a club is within 5km, there is no reason at all not to go,” she said.
Ms Ahern pointed out that there was no public health guidance to advise that older people should not be able to access courts and courses. “This is a big issue,’ she said, asking, “are older people going to be banned from going to other places?”
The geriatrician highlighted examples of how some parks were open to only older people during certain times of the day, and suggested if clubs wanted to do something different for older people, they could provide hours where only older people could utilise them.
Ms Ahern said that older people generally had been very compliant with the guidance around cocooning, and said that the last number of weeks had been a cause of worry, stress, and loneliness for many people.
Carers have been hit particularly hard, she said, with many losing their only outlet of respite such as going for a coffee.
“You might have people cocooning who are also carers, and caring for partners who might have dementia, or sons and daughters with disabilities — they’ve been under huge stress,” she said.
“The implications of that are enormous”.
Ms Ahern said some people may be apprehensive about allowing carers or people back into their homes, but stressed that carers were trained to go into homes, and in practicing safe hand hygiene.
The geriatrician said it is also very important that older people are accessing healthcare.
Concerns had been voiced in recent weeks about reductions in the number of people attending emergency departments and contacting their GPs, however, Ms Ahern said doctors had engaged in efforts to address this and that emergency departments are now up to around 80% of what they were seeing, while GPs were reporting that people are coming back.
“People were worried and afraid, but we have to make sure that people are moving through the system,” she said.
While Ms Ahern said older people should continue to get someone else to do their shopping if this is possible, she said she believed that if someone “had to go” themselves, then they should.
“Everyone is very conscious and we all need to continue to adhere to the measures,” she said.
“People need to be cognisant of the guidance, but older people don’t need to be more concerned or do anything extra,’ she said.