21.2 C
Byron Shire
September 17, 2021

Seniors speak of lockdown angst

Latest News

Goonellabah drive-thru COVID testing this weekend at GSAC

With the community in lockdown, Lismore City Council says it is important for to get tested for COVID-19, even if you only have the mildest of symptoms. 

Other News

Vaccination by the mob for the mob at Tweed – No appointment needed

The local mob has come together to ensure that vaccination is available for any of the mob in the Northern Rivers who wants to get vaccinated.

What’s with the bollards?

I completely agree with Clive Jeffery when he points out that the new pedestrian crossing near the Commonwealth Bank...

Banned bunnies

Did you know that pet bunnies are banned in Queensland? But not in New South Wales! We’ve all seen the...

From Lismore XR to multi-faith ARRCC – now is the time for climate action

From XR to religious multi-faith networks the call is becoming stronger for real action on climate change.

Entertainment in the Byron Shire for the week beginning 15 September, 2021

Inception – Byron Theatre’s first post-lockdown live event Cancelled twice owing to the local lockdown, Three Lords’ Inception and AV...

New COVID – casual contact location – BP Chinderah Southbound

NNSWLHD has been notified of a new casual contact venue visited by a confirmed case of COVID-19 who travelled between Sydney and Brisbane for work.

‘The pandemic’s changed things forever.’ Alex Benham. Photo Jeff Dawson.

Mirembe Campbell with Mia Armitage

Spare a thought for our seniors in these so-called ‘unprecedented times’.

Global Health Ageing Research Professor, Bei Wu, at New York University, says mental health problems caused by isolation and loneliness are magnified for seniors and exacerbated by lockdowns and other restrictions.

Meanwhile, Professor of Geriatrics Lina Ma at Xuanwu Hospital says the mental health of seniors during the pandemic is particularly concerning, because research shows correlations between poor mental health and declining cognitive functioning, as well as increased risks for Alzheimer’s Disease.

We heard a lot about aged Australians when the pandemic was first declared nationally, for all the worst reasons: they were dying of COVID-19 in aged care.

But what’s it like when you’re a senior living in a regional community, under increasing travel restrictions and more recently, an extended lockdown?

COVID-19: a senior’s crash course in digital comms

Before the pandemic, governments were funding tech 101 classes for seniors to help them learn basics as email, social media, and how to set up a MyGov account.

Now, our seniors are expected to fill out border pass applications online, use QR codes on smartphones and in some cases, see a doctor via telehealth.

Bay FM Community Newsroom reporter Mirembe Campbell spoke to three Byron Shire seniors to find out how they were coping.

‘The pandemic’s changed things forever,’ retired Mullumbimby Primary School Principal, volunteer firefighter and theatre enthusiast Alex Benham said.

Mr Benham has lived in the Byron Shire for 35 years, and said he used to have meetups after golfing tournaments where he’d have a drink and chat.

‘But that hasn’t happened for two years, and theatre is non-existent,’ Mr Benham said. 

Michael Borenstein. Photo Jeff Dawson.

President of Drill Hall Theatre Company, Michael Borenstein, has lived in the Shire for 40 years, and said he was used to organising numerous social events, including a local dance group called ‘Old Men Dancing’.

Mr Borenstein said the effects of COVID-19 were ‘especially frightening’ for seniors with underlying medical conditions, but for everyone it’s about ‘isolation and the impacts on mental health’.

Recently retired Byron Community Centre’s Seniors Program Co-ordinator, Pippy Wardell, has lived in the shire for 15 years and agreed social activities were important for senior mental health.

‘Seniors in Byron Shire are mostly very active; they’re professionals who’ve been very successful and moved up here when downsizing from cities, or they’re here to live better and be more creative’, Ms Wardell said.

‘Lockdowns and other restrictions feel absolutely atrocious’, she said, ‘I know some seniors are staying indoors trembling with fear but most of us are in shock, no one knows what to do’.

Isolated from family

‘The worst thing for seniors is isolation, especially not being able to see children and grandchildren.’ Pippy Wardell. Photo Jeff Dawson

‘The worst thing for seniors is isolation, especially not being able to see children and grandchildren’, Ms Wardell said, with Mr Borenstein proving her point by saying the most difficult thing for him was an inability to see his grandchildren.

‘It’s really affecting me’, Mr Borenstein said.

Mr Benham shared a similar lamentation.

‘It’s very hard, we’ve got a daughter in Melbourne and a son in Sydney, but we’ve not seen them for almost two years’, Mr Benham said, adding his sympathy for families separated by global travel restrictions.

‘People need to stop thinking they’re more important than everyone else, thinking they can do whatever they like’, Mr Benham said. ‘These recently extended lockdowns are causing more problems for everyone’.

Goverment led confusion

Professor Thespina Yemanis, of Global Health at American University School of International Service, says inconsistent, vague or unrealistic health messaging from governments creates confusion.

Confusion has been an ongoing complaint in Australia’s pandemic, with the Byron Shire no exception.

Mr Borenstein accused the NSW government of having ‘too many loopholes’ in its recent travel restrictions for Sydneysiders.

‘They should have been in hard lockdown, when the virus was first detected’, Mr Borenstein said. ‘Look what happened recently with the person coming up from Sydney to ostensibly check out real-estate’.

Mr Benham and Ms Wardell both agreed.

‘They could have put checkpoints on the two roads out of Sydney coming North, but they didn’t’, Ms Wardell said. ‘They left us wide open, I’m disgusted and upset’.

As if worrying about health and social isolation wasn’t enough, financial stress was also impacting Byron’s seniors.

‘Lockdowns are exhausting my funds,’ Ms Wardell said, ‘many of us are afraid of losing our homes, not having enough to eat and not being able to survive’.

Mirembe Campbell and Mia Armitage are Bay FM members. To listen to the interviews, visit bayfm.org.au and look for Community Newsroom.

Recent stories, information and updates regarding COVID-19

Goonellabah drive-thru COVID testing this weekend at GSAC

With the community in lockdown, Lismore City Council says it is important for to get tested for COVID-19, even if you only have the mildest of symptoms. 


COVID update includes trial of home quarantine

When media were told that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian would be at today's 11am update, we expected big news – the Premier said last week she would only attend the updates if it were important news.


Did NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian bow to media pressure?

After announcing last Friday that she would discontinue her daily press conference and the media backlash that followed, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian was back at her post at 11am today fronting the camera and question


Local councils reopen services post-lockdown

The Ballina, Byron Lismore and Tweed councils have all been quick off the mark to let residents know that they are back on deck for public interaction and many families separated by LGA borders were able to reunite from Saturday.


First day out of lockdown – record high of NSW 1,599...

NSW recorded yet another new record high 1,599 locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.


Berejiklian’s COVID update: our ‘freedoms’ and the Queensland border bubble

Just before New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian gave her Coronavirus update at 11am, it was reported that Queensland has just announced that the border bubble with New South Wales will be reinstated, but not in the way many had hoped.


Free beer is a Furphy for double-jabbed drinkers

Geelong born and brewed, Furphy plans to reward double-jabbed Australians with a free glass of Furphy when pub and club doors safely reopen.


Berejiklian: the modelling is telling us ‘we’re likely to reach a...

After Saturday’s record numbers of 1,533 new COVID-19 cases and then back to 1,485, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced at 11am today that the numbers had gone back to 1,281 cases of community transmission in New South Wales, and five people lost their lives.


COVID-19 fragment detected in Byron Bay samples collected Thursday

Fragments of the COVID-19 were detected in samples collected from the Byron Bay sewage treatment plant on Thursday and the Northern NSW Local Health District is urging people in the Byron region who have even the mildest of symptoms to get tested.


Berejiklian: ‘You have nothing to fear about getting the disease if...

In one of the biggest instances of misspeaking in the current COVID-19 outbreak, NSW Premier just minutes ago said that residents have 'nothing to fear about getting the disease if you follow the health orders and get vaccinated.'


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. As a senior who is retired and prioritised for vaccination access I have to agree, Nerida. Lockdown is hard on everyone and different demographics will experience the hardship differently but not exclusively. But please be civil or we’ll start carrying on about wars and depressions and having to walk 20 miles to school barefoot!

    I have sympathy with many of my contemporaries who are absolutely challenged by online transaction but I think lots of the challenge comes from a preconceived belief that it will be beyond them and scary. Can I appeal to everyone, oldies included, to accept that being old doesn’t mean being stupid, doddery or unable to learn new skills and technologies. Such beliefs from whatever quarter are self perpetuating.

    I love the convenience and connectedness that technology gives me but it doesn’t compensate for not knowing in what decade I’m likely to see my grandchildren in Victoria again. They don’t sit still long enough to do FaceTime well.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Reece Byrnes re-elected as Tweed Deputy Mayor

With many many local councils are juggling the elections timetable owing to COVID-19 restrictions, and last night the Tweed Shire elected their Deputy Mayor.

COVID update includes trial of home quarantine

When media were told that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian would be at today's 11am update, we expected big news – the Premier said last week she would only attend the updates if it were important news.

How is RT-PCR used to diagnose COVID-19?

It’s fast, reliable and full of lines – but might look different to the PCR you learned about in school.

Queensland passes voluntary assisted dying laws

Dying with Dignity NSW has welcomed the passage of Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) laws in Queensland and is hoping that NSW Parliament resumes next month so that this issue can be addressed in NSW without further delay.