While many in Western Australia are enjoying a much wider range of freedoms since COVID restrictions were lifted, some in the community are choosing to stay home.
- Many seniors are unwilling to return to public life
- Events catering for seniors are reporting low numbers
- The Council on the Ageing is urging compassion
Many have sheltered away from public activities over the past two years due to fears of catching COVID-19.
But with more than 80 per cent of West Australians triple-dose vaccinated, the state government has encouraged people to get back out into the public realm.
While some have taken that advice, the fear of infection still lingers, especially amongst the older community.
At the Morning Show at the Perth Town Hall, many expressed nervousness about going out.
“We always wear our masks. I think we’re going to wear ours for a while yet,” audience member Mary Redfern said.
“[We] just don’t want to catch the virus. And I think you can if you’re going to not wear a mask.”
COVID numbers in WA are the highest they have ever been, with almost 90,000 current infections and daily infection rates hovering around 15,000.
Audience numbers halved
Ms Redfern has chosen to stay active by getting out of the house, but takes all the precautions she can when she’s in public.
But not everyone is willing to take that risk.
This weekly show for seniors in the heart of Perth used to entertain crowds of up to 200.
Despite venue capacity limits easing almost a month ago, attendance now hovers at little more than half that figure.
Bernard Carney has hosted the Morning Show for more than two decades and said the buzz in the Perth Town Hall has not felt the same since the pandemic began.
“It’s just that uncertain time. We haven’t really got back to normal,” he said.
“Sometimes families encourage them not to come because they’re more likely to catch [COVID].”
Mr Carney said lining up performers had also been difficult as many had pulled out due to COVID infections or needing to isolate.
“The show gets cancelled or I have to book somebody else. Or I might have to do it myself,” he said jokingly.
West Australians asked to be compassionate
Council on the Ageing WA CEO Christine Allen said while the general population may have gotten used to the idea of living with COVID, many in the older community have not.
“We’ve got more COVID cases than we’ve ever had. Since our borders opened, older people are concerned and they are choosing to stay at home,” she said.
Ms Allen urged West Australians to be compassionate when making decisions about wearing masks and social distancing.
“I don’t know that it should be mandated that we all wear them, but certainly think of people who are at higher risk than you are,” she said.
Ms Allen said her mother was one of many older West Australians who have chosen to stay home.
“She is very frightened about going out into the community, and she feels that she may not survive if she gets COVID,” she said.
Staying active, staying safe
It’s not just the CBD that seniors are avoiding.
In the suburb of Beechboro, north-east of Perth, carpet bowlers have also seen their attendance struggle to recover.
The gymnasium which houses a weekly tournament once filled with green bowling mats now only uses half the space.
Bebe Flynn captains the Addie Mills Gosnells carpet bowls team, who all returned this week for the first time in half a year.
“I don’t like admitting how old I am,” Ms Flynn said, laughing.
“We haven’t been here since November. We decided we’d give it a go again.”
Ms Flynn said the summer heat was one reason for not participating in the competition until now, but the risk of infection also weighed heavily on their minds.
So despite having decided to get her and the “golden girls” back out, the team donned masks as part of their uniform.
“I’d hate for any of my people to come down with COVID because I’ve taken them out bowling,” she said.
Activities gradually returning
Jennifer Merigan runs a newspaper targeted at seniors, and says while numbers are yet to pick up, there is a hint of hope among the older community.
“People are starting to learn to live with COVID, and they’re still wanting to head out and about,” she said.
“We’re finding a lot of our clubs and groups are getting back to doing activities.”
Ms Merigan said enough seniors were getting out to warrant clubs recommencing activities that have been cancelled for the past two years.
“They’re taking precautions, wearing masks. But they also know that the secret of life is getting out, and having a go,” she said.
But even among those willing to take that risk, an air of uncertainty remains as West Australians endure their first wave of COVID-19.