Between June and September of 2021, ten Forums were held in Conwy County. Information packs, and a few goodies, were given to those attending. It was lovely to see many familiar faces and some new ones. There is still concern about COVID-19, and there was lots to talk about.
Digital Exclusion – a shift to most information and services being available only online, leaving many older people completely out of the loop, and then further penalised by extra charges for paper bills, using cheques and so forth.
Older people are cautious of doing anything online for security reasons, and don’t feel they are able to learn the complexity of the constantly changing digital world. They would like to see targeted information programs on television and radio, with both being used to effectively reach and inform people not accessing the internet and social media. Any help available to learn to access the internet is provided via webinars, making it impossible for beginners to learn from scratch.
Ongoing Restrictions – Everyone agreed on the importance of continuing with safety protocols. However, there are too many restrictions on the use of community venues which infringe largely on the older population, compared to the more relaxed regulations in pubs, clubs, stadiums, and theatres. This inconsistency is further compounded by the lack of enforcement of safety protocols such as mask wearing, self-distancing and hand sanitisation in supermarkets and similar public places. There were concerns for the mental health of older people who are too anxious to come out, having little available to motivate them to get out and socialise.
“People don’t feel safe shopping for essential groceries, but then cannot have a coffee morning with their peers.”
Older people are keen to see previous services and activities resume safely and soon.
GP Surgeries – The most talked about topic at all the forums was how difficult it is to get an appointment with a GP. It is challenging to get through by phone at 8:30am when everyone is calling for an appointment, and only same day appointments are available. Having to speak about private medical concerns with surgery staff that have no medical training.
No concession being made for older people who don’t have mobiles, smart phones, and who cannot go online, being offered ZOOM appointments or asked to email photos. Only phone appointments being offered. People waiting by the phone all day to get a GP call-back and given no window of time when to expect the call.
Rare to get a face-to-face appointment and some surgeries are not providing them at all. Some people going to the Minor Injuries Unit or A&E to be seen for changes in chronic and serious afflictions, because they are being refused a face-to-face appointment.