After months confined to our homes, it looked like the UK was finally coming out of lockdown – albeit gradually and at different speeds throughout the country. But with restrictions being tightened, it’s still far from certain what the future holds.

With  more localised restrictions returning as infection rates rise, and worries remaining over the prospect of a ‘second wave’ of the illness on the horizon, it will be a long time yet before we’re back to anything resembling normal – and this could be a particular issue for the many older people who have been shielding throughout this difficult time.

How the right support is vital in tackling isolation

One of the biggest concerns for many older people will be keeping socially active during this time. According to figures from Age UK, more than two million people in England live alone, and with the opportunities for visits from family and friends and trips out to socialise limited, this can have a highly negative effect on people’s mental health.

As well as the additional loneliness it may cause, this isolation could make older individuals more concerned about their physical health. For instance, if they were to suffer a fall in their home or garden, would they be able to contact family or emergency services for help? Concerns about this may therefore prevent them from engaging in activities they would normally enjoy to keep themselves fit and healthy.

As a result, it’s more important than ever for older people to be supported at the current time. New rules on socialising in gardens will no doubt be welcome for many people – but this won’t be useful for everyone, and of course, there is always the potential for future lockdowns or shielding requirements to curtail these activities.

If family and friends can’t pop round in person, it’s vital they have other ways of keeping in touch, both to ensure older people’s health and wellbeing are being looked after and to provide essential companionship and conversation.

The importance of the right technology

One area that will be hugely important is providing older people with the right technology to help keep them in touch with friends and relatives, as well as ensure they have a lifeline to professional support and emergency help should they need it.

Lockdown saw many people up and down the UK turning to video conferencing tools such as Zoom, for instance, to maintain face-to-face contact. But older people could feel left out of these contacts, as they’re less likely to have tools such as internet access or the right computer equipment to take advantage of this.

Indeed, the Office for National Statistics notes that while 87 percent of people used the internet daily in 2019, this dropped to just 61 per cent for those aged over 65, with a quarter of these not using the internet at all in the past three months.

However, the Covid pandemic could be an ideal opportunity to change this and make sure older individuals have all the tools they need to ensure they can always stay in touch. This could be video connectivity technology that doesn’t rely on having a PC or laptop, or even specialist telecare monitoring and communications services that can ensure older people can instantly get through to family, carers or emergency services if they have any issues.