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In our Missing Voices series, Crikey is asking our older readers to share their first-hand experiences of the pandemic.

Isabel R writes: I am a 73-year-old, active and relatively healthy Melburnian. I thought you’d be interested in my current experience dealing with the aftermath of a non-COVID death.

My brother-in-law died at home from heart/lung issues the weekend before last. My sister rang me early on a Sunday morning after the paramedics pronounced him dead and I quickly drove from the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne to the Mornington Peninsula suburb where she lives, confident that this would come under the “care-giving” exemption for breaking stage four lockdown rules.

After the initial shock, we settled into a time of phone calls, emails, receiving flower deliveries and trying to sort out the myriad paperwork of notifying Centrelink, medical specialists, lawyers, and utility companies. In this time, I have had to travel home for medical appointments and back to stay with my sister.

Neighbours have dropped by a lot, as has the GP, funeral directors and other well-wishers — lockdown or not (but with masks on!).

It’s at a time like this when you need to make some contact and though we have tried to limit going out and don’t encourage all the visits, they still need to happen for some people and purposes.

In spite of an NBN connection that was, and continues to be horrendous to the point of insanity, notifying Centrelink was easy and efficient and all online!

Utilities — hours on the phone just to change the name on the connection.

Telstra — no she doesn’t need a laptop, mobile or upgraded plan (90 minutes wasted on the phone).

My verdict on the experience so far — I feel deeply for those who have lost loved ones without having the last moments in their company, and whether due to COVID-19 or not, grief and loss will always require reach-out in a myriad of ways in order to cope, continue and eventually move on.

Christene Cole writes: I am a retired social worker aged 73 but do not feel old, even though I have some chronic medical problems. Fortunately, I am still able to manage my life, but I am very aware how easily that can be lost.
A slip or fall could result in admission to aged care, and being helpless in the system.

I live alone in a strata plan villa house, and hope I am here for the remainder of my life.

I am a community visitor and as a volunteer, used to visit a lady in aged care with advanced dementia, and legally blind. I have not been able to visit since COVID-19 hit NSW, as I am not a blood relative.

I also send letters and cards to two other people in aged care, who have no family, or any visitors.

My friends from school days are developing problems that impact their mobility.

Other friends, 10 and 20 years older than me are facing aged care. One has funds but does not want to leave his house, but his family want him to move.

Another has insufficient funds to find aged care in the area where he used to live, with multiple friend supports. It looks like he will have to accept a shared room in an outer western suburb of Sydney.

I am angry that LNP governments think more of their donor “mates” than they care about the elderly, underemployment, workers in aged care, child care, disability services, refugees and migrants, the environment.

Ray Ryan writes: I am 74 years of age, went out on my own at age 14 and have never looked back, because when I do I lament at the squandering of our resources, and the miserable catastrophes in abundance that decades of poor governing, vacuous leadership and unaddressed corruption has left us with.

Mind you, the Australia of 1958 that I hit the streets in wasn’t perfect, but it felt like a place where those in power had some small degree of respect for their roles, and responsibilities.

I have seen some miserable federal and state governments come and go, however I am profoundly disheartened at how corrupt the current federal government is.

On current form I don’t think the federal opposition is any better, although I think they have more talent amongst their ranks (not much of a reference).

We have stuffed the rivers, the fauna, the flora, the oceans, social justice, human rights, and trampled on Indigenous Australians, so although looking back is pointless, looking forward is way beyond desperate.

“Poor fella my country”.

Crikey is calling for readers in their 70s and beyond to share their first-hand experiences of the pandemic. To contribute, write to us at [email protected] with “Missing Voices” in the subject line.

Peter Fray

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