Polly Hudson: The old are being left behind as lockdown eases – Polly Hudson


My hairdresser’s phonelines opened for appointments on Monday, and we need to update the old adage. From now on, it’s “You know what they say… 194th time lucky”.

That’s how many redials it took me before getting through.

Don’t want to be negative – we must try to embrace the new normal – but I have to say, so far I prefer the old normal, where I just had to ring the once.

This Saturday, as you surely cannot fail to know, is Independence Day, when lockdown eases another level. And for a country still recovering from the fracture of Brexit, it threatens another difficult divide.

It’s easy to buy into the idea that everyone will be skipping merrily to the pub, straight after booking their holiday, to show off their fresh cut and colour – but this isn’t the case.

An elderly man wearing a face mask

There are some people in danger of being left behind, watching wistfully through the window as everybody else gleefully takes advantage of the rule loosening.

For those of a certain age, or with underlying health conditions, this must be a very frustrating, frightening time. They’re going to have to think hard about how they handle this and what they do, because the consequences are so much more serious for them.

So then what are we left with? A society where life moves at two different speeds, with the, say, under-70s in the fast lane, and the overs stuck on the hard shoulder, waiting for… well, they don’t even really know what. A vaccine? Herd immunity? Divine intervention?

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon says she would welcome a statement from Boris Johnson that he is also seeking to “eliminate coronavirus rather than tolerate it in wider circulation as long as it does not overwhelm the NHS” – but none has so far been forthcoming.

Elderly Brits have been isolated from grandchildren due to the lockdown

Devi Sridhar, Professor and Chair of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University and, for me, currently the go-to voice for clear, reliable reason, also wondered: “How is it possible we’re so many months into the pandemic and no one seems to know what Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s objective and strategy is for Covid-19?”

For older people, now at risk of feeling like second-class citizens, there isn’t even an end in sight.

How unfair must it feel to have to exercise caution when everyone else seems to be throwing it to the wind?

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The other issue is that age isn’t what it once was. Seventy is the new 60, and so on – each generation is fitter and more active than the one before, and many of those urged to be extra careful will be insulted.

This is an argument I’ve had with my mum many times in the last few months. I remind her she’s in a high-risk group, and she tells me that’s not how she feels.

I see her point – she’s a formidable, whirling ball of energy – but the facts are the facts, and her biological age cannot be argued with, although she has indeed tried, repeatedly.

The harsh truth is that however desperately we want All This to be behind us, it isn’t yet.

None of us will be living in a post-pandemic world on July 4 – or as Adele so succinctly put it, “corona ain’t over”.

This new, confusing period is hard to navigate.

It’s almost enough to make you nostalgic for simpler times, when the lockdown was rigid for everyone except Dominic Cummings.





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