Surprising. Sobering. Humorous.
Wise. Sad. Independent. Unique.
The nearly 800 letters we received from older New Zealanders defy ageist stereotypes that portray them as fragile, vulnerable and weak. Scroll down to find a selection of their stories. They offer powerful insights into their lockdown experiences in words and pictures.
Well Jeff and I could stay home all day, every day and not feel guilty! Thank you Level 2-4 Covid-19.
But it was a strange time for over 70 year olds. Isolation to a people person is an unusual time to say the least, no more sharing smiles, “and one smile does make two” so there was a shortage of smiles, not only flour and toilet paper! Hugs and conversations were also missing from everyday life. We couldn’t go to the supermarket and try and find some there, best place to look was towards the footpath outside our house and watch the many young families walking by instead of driving!
This time did bring back significant memories of my time as a young child in Auckland Hospital for many weeks with a kidney disease in 1950. I was confined to a single room to begin with and then a large ward where I could talk to other children from our beds. Visitors were limited, only my mother and grandmother. I didn’t see my father, brother and sister for many weeks until I went home. No going outside but we could look out window and see male patients in the TB ward enjoying the sunshine on a huge deck. “ It’s not fair, why can’t I go outside?”
We also had to check our cutlery and if it had TB engraved on it we had to give it to a nurse as we might get infected, cutlery was special to TB wards. My first experience of isolation, social distancing and sanitisation!
Jeff, who has vascular dementia found isolation difficult to begin with especially from Level 2 onwards as his routines were all gone! What day is it? Shouldn’t we be going walking today? A blackboard displaying day and date did help answer some of his questions. The teacher coming out in me! During Level 1 and 2 I was able to drive Jeff to our beach reserve and sit in the car and sip a hot drink and watch the waves roll in and talk to friends through the car window. It was a little strange to see a Police car drive by checking to make sure only those who were allowed to be out and about were obeying the rules. I was able during Level 2 to walk Daisy our dog up and down our street keeping our two-metre distance. We were lucky the sun was shining most days so this did make you feel good and not too isolated.
Jeff derives so much enjoyment from attending his Dementia groups. No more exercise from walking around the Auckland Botanic Gardens on Tuesday morning with Daisy our dog, sharing coffee and conversation with group members. We had to hang up our dancing shoes and no more music and movement and reliving our youth and the time that we meet our life partner on the dance floor. No more, “ I’ll keep changing partners until I’m in your arms again,” on a Wednesday afternoon at Te Tuhi Pakuranga with the dementia dance group.
Jeff getting his sports clothes ready, Doreen baking muffins (she has done that for many years) on a Thursday ready for Friday Men’s Group. Friday is a time of jokes, coffee and conversation and modified sports and exercise, a time when the wives and carers are able to have time-out at local shopping mall and share experiences, but all that was off the list. I missed the conversations with other carers on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Dementia Auckland helped by enabling the groups to stay connected through “Zoom”, this was wonderful as everyone could see and hear each other even if we couldn’t hug. This was a time of conversation, quizzes and sharing our lives.
Electronic devices were a great asset at this time as we could email, phone and communicate with family and friends and keep safe. As many people were out walking during Level 3 and 4 and not driving cars we were able to converse with them from a distance. The park bench at the front of our house with the sun beaming on Jeff and I was a wonderful viewing platform to watch the many families out walking or riding bikes together.
What did I do instead, well I got my knitting needles out, donned my apron and did baking, the kitchen smelt divine, all those jigsaws puzzles, reading books, the sun was shining so I spent time in the garden, very relaxing and therapeutic. We did miss family gatherings when we could share time with our children and grandchildren over a meal. These are always special times for Jeff when he is able laugh and talk with his grandchildren. No hugs and kisses. A dementia person can feel isolated and it is even harder for them when they are confined to home. No car club outings – another great time to re-live the good old days of Morris Minors and his youth.
Family and neighbours helped us get through the lockdown period by communicating regularly with us and doing our shopping. I could email my order or leave my card and list at the door and wow before long bags of goodies arrived. Much better than on-line where I heard of many mix-ups of goods, and very late in the night deliveries. An elderly neighbour ordered 2 potatoes and received 2x2kg bags.!
Our street had an email list of all residents and we were able to stay in contact and care for each other through this wonderful medium by way of regular emails sent to all, which included recipes, photos and more.
When we were allowed to begin leaving home and joining groups again it felt like we were on holiday in a foreign country. Hand sanitiser at shop doors, sign-in books, how far away from others should we stay, what are the crosses on the floor for? What are all those signs in black and yellow? Oh dear this was all foreign to us.
It was great to share our time with cousins and friends in other parts of New Zealand and locally by way of phone conversations, it was amazing how everyone had time to talk now, no “I have to head out to this that and the other activity or work.” We loved talking with young children over the fence and being part of their daily life as all schools were closed. I was able to ask a recently widowed young neighbour to help with our groceries shopping and clear our post office box. This provided her with a wonderful sense of purpose and helped fill a void in her life. A win, win situation.
Being over seventy, we felt we were a forgotten group, locked away out of sight and out of mind of government and society. Make them stay home and we won’t have to deal with a mountain of issues.
More focus seemed to be on young families and those now not able to work. I guess they are the future not us oldies who have been there, done that and contributed to society and are now a liability!
On the plus side we had a call from our local MP’s office (Opposition) because we were over 70 and checked that we were coping and provided us with a phone number should be need any help.
Well what an interesting time it has been for one and all. I wonder when our borders will open up and also those around the world and people can travel and holiday here and overseas?
Well I think my letter/ essay is complete! Stay safe and well.
As Pablo Neruda wrote in 1957
This time is difficult. Wait for me.
We will live it out vividly.
Give me your small hand:
We will rise and suffer,
We will feel, we will rejoice.
Now we need each other, …
So let our difficult time stand up to infinity
with four hands and four eyes.
It was wonderful during Covid-19 to witness people helping and caring for others to stay safe and well.
Doreen (76 years old) and Jeff (78 years old)
1 July 2020
I wish to give you my reflections from Lockdown this year.
I am a 73 year-old who lives alone in a townhouse.
I am a retired teacher who still takes 11 children for literacy each week.
I don’t have family living nearby, and had to rely on the goodwill and kindness of friends who cared for my immediate needs.
I began Lockdown 10 days earlier than the rest of NZ because I happened to be in a café at the same time as our first case was diagnosed in Invercargill – 19 March 2020. I was classified as asymptomatic, meaning I was rated a very low risk.
I felt I could not take any sort of risk, because I tutor 11 children on literacy, at home. I put a sign on the door to say I was now in self-isolation.
At this point I felt I had the plague, because I saw friends approach the door then recoil in horror and almost run out the gate!
I contacted all of the homes, set up on-line lessons using Facetime, audio/phone calls, and some families emailed photos of the completed work each week.
The next issue was getting food. I had an emergency kit in the garage, but it wasn’t complete. I tried to have my groceries delivered by Countdown, but their registration form wouldn’t accept my address. Suddenly offers came in from friends and the families I work with. I was so grateful when they would ring and deliver to the front door.
But the big question soon surfaced: how do I keep the mind under control and keep a healthy routine each day. I have always lived with The List each day, which gives me the necessary routine to step into.
I needed a balance, so I used the following daily format:
A heart health issue surfaced unexpectedly, at this time.
The Doctor detected an irregular heartbeat, so scans were required. Atrial fibrillation was diagnosed, and 2 medications were prescribed.
After 6 weeks of this routine, I hit the wall.
I began to feel my ‘family tank’ was empty.
I was used to flying up to Christchurch during the terms, or driving to Dunedin to see my family. Because this couldn’t happen, I was now sitting on 3 cancelled flights. I am not good at talking about my inner feelings but realized I had to tell a family m ember that the isolation from family was getting too hard. They responded and we began Zoom games meetings, bringing 3 families together. These were organized by my son in Dunedin. We had 2 nights of Family Feud, working in teams. It was great.
During this time, I knew of a friend who lived in a flat nearby. She lives on her own and had no family here. When we got to level 3, I put 2 plastic chairs in the garden and carefully placed 2 metres apart, so that she could come by on her way to the New World. She would call by at least twice a week to pick up means and baking. As a result, we are now close friends who help each other out in many ways.
In conclusion, I hope this window into my Lockdown is helpful.
All the best with the Project!
12 July 2020
I am a 81 year-old resident of [a retirement village] and during lockdown a Facebook page just for this village was arranged and proved to be a popular way in which residents could stay connected. We are an independent village so all activities are organised by the residents. Sharing photos, comments, music and YouTube clips helped lighten the day. A competition of artwork on letterboxes using recyclable materials was a winner, people using their imagination and colourful materials to create their masterpieces. And of course the teddies and other loved toys on display in the windows were lovely.
I found that writing poems relating to our circumstances within the village helped me and was appreciated by the residents. I have attached these, which follows the start of the lockdown to the final days. We were very happy to get together again in our social groups although some residents have taken their time to get close to friends and neighbours, especially those with health problems.
We have a lovely group of ukulele players from within the village and the wider community who meet here on a Saturday morning, and what joy music of all kinds was for the 60 or so to be together again with our tutor. Certainly helps promote a good feeling.
STAY HOME, STAY SAFE. First week done
Stay home, stay safe is the message we hear each day
There is an unseen virus lurking out there, let's keep it at bay
Our daily routine has been affected, it's taking time to adjust
It's hurting many people, many business's going bust.
We may be past our 70's, considered 'old' by those in charge
But others are doing wonders taking care of us at large.
The supermarket workers keeping shelves stocked with goods
Staff delivering ordered food, we will not go hungry, that is understood.
We can walk the empty, quiet streets that are within our gates
Greet friends and neighbours, they may not be our best mates
But it's surprising how interesting peoples lives can be
When you take the time to talk and share
Either on Facebook, by phone, or just getting out there.
Inside the house the silver is polished, the furniture dusted and aglow
The garden is almost weed-free, cupboards rearranged, items neatly in their rows
Old receipts and papers sorted and committed to the bin
With so much spare time each day, where do we begin?
Be thankful for our warm homes, our families and our friends
What's happening now around the world Is hard to comprehend,
Our village life-style and all it offers gives us a feeling of security
And we will adjust to these difficult times because of our maturity.
One day soon
While in lockdown so many things in my home have gone unused
They sat lonely and neglected, if human, would have felt totally confused
My car, for instance, sits in the garage looking very grim
It took me to the shops, the beach, or the pool for a swim
One day soon it's lights will shine, there will be a glow upon its face
As it slowly backs out the door to join the human race
My handbag has sat on the table, its contents all in the dark
About the change in circumstances that is keeping it apart
Its sides are folded over, looking tired, not upright and alert
The cards and cash within it not feeling wanted, and it hurt
It's been my travelling companion so many times in the past
It's looking forward to being hugged again, it will have a blast
But that can't be said for all the many things within my cosy home
Unused it not a word they have had to endure alone
The pots and pans, pantry food, and frozen leftovers have given me
Hours (and hours etc etc ) of useful work while on my own
Over coming weeks as daily life returns and we no longer have to abstain
Me, my car and my handbag will be ready to face the outside world again.
The time has come
The time has come for me to venture beyond the village gate
I'm not sure that I'm ready to face the changes that await
For weeks now I have been grateful for others to help me out
The staff, shopping volunteers, my neighbours,
"Thank You" I want to shout
But I'm keen to do the things that have usually made my day
It's just that it will have to be done now in a different way.
I'm not a fast food kind of person, I like to cook at home
There are others who enjoy someone else's cooking for a change
They love the food of other cultures as along the street they roam.
Looking for a food outlet that hasn't got a queue.
There is the saying that 'variety is the spice of life'
Perhaps it's time to join with them and try some fast food too!
'Click and collect' has become a new term in our daily life
Be it at the supermarket, hardware store, restaurants and more
This unwelcome virus has got a lot to answer for.
I look forward to once again grab a trolley and wander down the aisle
Sit down with friends for coffee and chat for a while, then
Pack up my shopping in an old reusable bag and
Smile, Smile, Smile.
I am getting older. There’s still much I love to do. To mow the lawn and keep fit and healthy. To pick garden-fresh vegetables for all to enjoy. To clear the forest of pest weeds and feral creatures. To protect the Manawa forests on the mudflats along the shore. To write thoughts in words that educe. To have a say in how people rule the Tangata Whenua. There are still things for me to say and do for the good of humanity; post Covid-19 Lockdown.
Firstly, let me say that I hope that you, your family, your whanau [extended family], and friends have been safe and healthy during the Covid-19 infection and Lockdown. Then, to remind you that older people know the hands-on years pass more quickly than you think.
Possibly, for the first time in my life, I am not doing things to suit others in the family and the whanau. I like it, finally, I do things that I like to do without having to think about whom I could upset; therefore, lose out on an invitation, a publication, a funded application, a promotion; perhaps, even a new job! This is my time for critical transformative action; fulltime.
Crucially, I should remember that ageing is not just a biomedical event and older people are not a single uniform group. I know 70 plus-years-old Tangata Whenua [First People of the Land] who are fit and active and middle-aged relations and friends, and younger, who are ailing. I have read and discussed the ideas that people experience older age differently depending on their wealth, health, education, language and culture, gender, sexuality, and their own perception of what constitutes older age. From my perspective, growing older successfully isn’t merely a biomedical view of daily living; rather, ageing well is a fecund experience of the freedom to do good and be happy.
By the way, I like the digitisation of communication. At the level of a whanau and community groups, decision-making is faster and shared more widely; morale is stronger; communications clearer; and leadership more vibrant and vigorous. I say this while drawing on my view and experiences of the actions of protest against the local, wealthy, powerful company whose realtors are advertising globally that the company’s farm has “direct access” to the beaches and business opportunities near the ancestral village in which I reside. Moreover, the company and their realtors have failed to disclose, in their advertisements, that there are villages of longstanding between the company’s farm and the beach and potential money-making developments. The landowners and residents, especially, the Tangata Whenua, are offended by the company’s and realtors’ absence of good manners, their ignorant and arrogant, even racist, conduct towards us; about the rumour of a potential gated estate along the waterfront; the potential degradation and destruction of the Manawa [mangroves]; increased vehicular traffic, more vehicular, light, and noise pollution; and escalated rates to pay for the multimillion dollars cost to bring the “access” from a restricted to a public road.
In the middle of a protest like this, Tangata Whenua living in our ancestral village have to show energy, compassion, empathy, adroitness, and stamina. Older people need to enact the ancient values of boldness and courage. We have to ask ourselves, “are we being all we really ought to be at this moment in time?’” For me, it’s been a demanding few months through the Covid-19 infection and emergency. I want to say this to you: If this pandemic has taught this Tangata Whenua woman anything, it’s that the health, justice, economic, and conservation systems are racist—and that 70 plus years-old women and men will never have a better prospect for transformational change than right now.
One of my most alarming experiences is finding out about the inadequate planning protection of the Manawa forests, and the flora and fauna in the nearby Wildlife Refuges; that, like me, are Tangata Whenua. An urgent overhaul is needed for the Department of Conservation, the local and regional council plans. Their failure to protect the land against inappropriate subdivision, use, and development appears to breach the resource management, conservation, local government, race relations, and the human rights laws—to name a few. The lack of protection and enforcement of the nation’s laws has serious implications, not just for landscapes and biodiversity but for the Tangata Whenua who will likely lose what little of the ancestral land still belongs to us through, for example, increased land taxation.
The Covid-19 pandemic and curfew have laid bare the underlying systems of racism. Central government, councils, business developers, and the wealthy and powerful people repeating the same views and experiences, over and over again, and expecting all people’s daily living to be good and fair are absurd. I am no longer confident that these people and their reliance on Christianity and democracy or rule by law are sufficiently knowledgeable even to envision a better way of living by Tangata Whenua in Aotearoa. Besides, this knowledge of a better society is sufficiently complex for Tangata Whenua to grasp.
This is how the national emergency has been, with the dominant societal response to health inequities that the Covid-19 Lockdown is now exposing; in very clear ways. Just as individuals, such as the 70 plus years old, with underlying conditions-obesity, passivity, and impoverishment— are more vulnerable to the pandemic, so too are many communities of Tangata Whenua. In Aotearoa, the health professionals, at least, have known for more than 70 years that possessions and social status determine how sick you will be and how long you will live. Put simply, if you are obese, passive, and impoverished your life expectancy is lower than someone with social status, political power, and material resources – six years for men and five for women.
If you are also the Tangata Whenua you can expect to be ill more often, and to die even younger. More and more health professionals and Tangata Whenua know that our dispossessed position is the result of unfair systemic interactions; racism, for example. The Tangata Whenua also know that racism influences both disadvantage and privilege. We know, also, that dispossession is suffered within whanau as well as among whanau; hence, we know that the health and food packages that have been delivered to the homes, in our village, by the Health provider and this and that Maori service organisation must be shared.
We know that racism ‘gets under the skin’ of the Tangata Whenua, not only during the Lockdown, but day after day after day. Also, we know that racism or lack of control over our daily living is a risk factor for the Covid-19 infection. We know that our access to good health care is imperfect; but, we know, too, that our cultural, commercial, educational, and political position contribute to our lack of authority over our lives.
For all this, the Tangata Whenua know that in spite of the good intention and investment of the people in positions of power, their racist ways of thinking about and behaving towards us remain almost unchanged. All the good intention and investment have not made a change for the better. New Zealand’s Christian religion and democratic system flow away from the Tangata Whenua, away from the intimacy of kindness and care, and that compels shared action for the good of humanity.
The Covid-19 infection and the Lockdown, like colonial history impact on sharing power, knowledges, and resources; on who is valued and who is not. Although researchers, especially, quantitative scientists are good at gathering data, evidence, and information to define and understand racism, they are less good at enacting change that will be good for all of humanity; not just them.
In my view and experience of the Covid-19 emergency, the Tangata Whenua know that collective health and happiness is about the strength and flow of relationships within and among whanau as well as with the Indigenous flora and fauna surrounding us, in the countryside. The Tangata Whenua leaders need to be more experienced in matters of daily living, better educated, better communicators, and more sophisticated intellectually; instead of servants of the government agencies like Te Puni Kokiri, the Maori Land Court, Department of Conservation, and the Health system, among others.
Collective wellbeing that entails harmony between all life on earth has to be understood by those in control of decision and profit making. The controllers have to be in touch with those whom they rule; there are no excuses for the rulers’ failure of their whole-of-government and intersectoral strategies that they have put upon the Tangata Whenua. Like colonial history and racism, the consequences of the Covid-19 infection and emergency will be extensive and enduring, similar to rebuilding the economy in the1980s and 1990s. Profound health and social effects will fall unfairly, once again, on Tangata Whenua who are already impoverished and living in precarious circumstances.
The Covid-19 curfew has shown that racism is not a theory for the Tangata Whenua and that the dominant western models of health and profit-making and accumulation are not good for all of humanity. My final view and experience of the Covid-19 Lockdown is that the lawmakers must become more sophisticated and humane, and stop believing that society is safe for all, and to stop avoiding making the hard decisions about racism, post Covid-19.
16 June 2020.
I am a widow living on my own.
During the COVID 19 lock down in 2020 I was very fortunate to have my cousin, also a widow, live with me for the entire period of Level 4; she returned home at the beginning of Level 3. We shared the housework, watched Netflix and Television in the evenings, read books and walked most days in the nearby parks, my walks being a lot shorter as I have back and knee problems. I was able to write up a family history of my late husband’s family from documents that had been stored in drawers and cupboards for several years, as well as adding to a story about my own life, so all in all I did not find Level 4 too arduous nor for that matter, Levels 3 and 2.
I was also able to keep in touch with friends over the phone and tutor a young school girl from Taiwan in English via my computer and the phone – she would forward me her work on the computer, I would correct it then phone her and she would make the necessary corrections on her copy which I could see on the computer; she could also ask me any questions.
My daughter in Christchurch phoned me every week, while my son, who lives nearby phoned me most days, but I missed the actual physical contact with the family. There was one occasion when my son had to come to my rescue, fortunately he was able to do so without breaking the law as he was classified as an “Essential Worker”. I had been told to drive my car around the block at least once a week in order to keep the battery from going flat, which I did, but obviously “the block” was not a long enough drive because when I went to start the car in preparation for a doctor’s visit it would not start. I phoned my son who duly arrived with a battery charger, and keeping the required 2m distance from me attached the charger to the car and left me with instructions as to what I had to do the following morning. Apart from knowing the car would start, the joy of actually seeing my son after several weeks was something I could not describe but I felt a deep disappointment that I could not hug him.
The visit to the Doctor, to check on an eye infection, under COVID 19 protocols was certainly different to the “normal” visit. On the morning of my appointment I had to phone the nurse to let her know I was well; on arrival I had to sanitise my hands and sit 2m from the only other patient (apparently appointments were made so that a maximum of three patients were in the waiting room at any one time); I had decided to wear a mask and this was appreciated by the staff. When I entered the doctor’s room I found her to be wearing a plastic protective gown, mask and gloves and as I left she wiped down her desk, my chair and equipment that could not be put into a sterilizer with a disinfectant wipe. Payment at Reception was made at arms-length with a “Tap and Go” credit card. At the Pharmacy, only two people at a time were permitted to enter, my prescription was processed very quickly, and payment was once again “Tap and Go” at arms-length.
What I missed most during COVID 19 was the inability to attend Church, and receive Holy Communion especially during Holy Week and Easter, and a Service on ANZAC Day, however both my church and the Holy Trinity Cathedral did have Sunday services that I could follow on my computer. Regarding ANZAC Day, like several families in our street my cousin and I stood out on the footpath to watch dawn light the sky and remember the fallen not only of WWI but all the other Wars since. We heard a lone Piper play “Amazing Grace” and later someone played a recording of “The Last Post” followed by “Reveillie”, then we heard a chorus of birds as they greeted the day. It was certainly a very different ANZAC morning, but nonetheless very moving. I also missed attending U3A and Association of Anglican Women Meetings and helping out at Selwyn College in their Assisted Learning Department.
All my shopping during Levels 4,3 and 2 was done for me by my young neighbour to whom I will be eternally grateful.
With no traffic around I heard and saw more birds, and on my walks complete strangers would smile and say “Good morning” or Good afternoon” “Keep safe and well”, something I never experienced before the pandemic.
When my grandsons happened to say that they missed meeting up with friends, going to the movies and that school work over the computer was “not the same”, I reminded them that as a twelve year-old, recently arrived from overseas, and with only a few weeks of schooling in New Zealand I had to face the 1947 Polio Epidemic when all schools were closed until May 1948. Our schooling was done through the Correspondence School and on Radio – lessons were delivered and returned by post and certain times allotted on the radio for certain classes which we had to listen to as our work was based on these broadcasts. Children were not permitted to go to the Movies, visit Public Swimming Pools, or attend any gatherings. I also reminded the boys that there was no immunisation against polio at that time, and that from memory the Salk vaccine did not arrive in New Zealand until the late 1950s or early 1960.
I have nothing but praise for our Prime Minister and her government for taking the difficult but very necessary step to shut down the entire country so promptly and so stringently in order to limit the spread of COVID 19 in the community. The decision to lock down in order to spare lives versus the economic loss to the country could not have been easy, but for our country with such a small population the possibility of a massive loss of lives by doing nothing would have resulted in economic disaster. As far as the elderly were concerned, the Prime Minister did encourage people to look out for their elderly relatives and neighbours, so I don’t think she could have done anything else for this group.
I do hope what I have written will be of help in your research.
7 July 2020
20th August 2020
Dear New Zealanders
In the last 5 months I have learned another meaning for many words. Bubble, physical and social distancing, a-symptomatic, Level 4 to 1 lockdowns, Click and collect, Novel Coronavirus shortened to Covid or the virus became topics of many conversations and are still continuing as we negotiate through a global pandemic.
To me the Government outlined, based on the best information possible, that the older generations are vulnerable. This has proved true and the effect of the virus on those in aged care homes, families and staff has been very sad.
In 2019 I travelled alone for 2 months in Europe but 5 months later I fell into the vulnerable category as announced by the Government and Covid guidelines advised that I stay home and ask someone else to buy my groceries. With the world now a different place I had to adapt to find my new daily life.
In New Zealand we have a reasonable right of free speech and freedom to live our life. However in March 2020 I am very thankful the Government of New Zealand made the decision to close the borders and lockdown the people. Over the next few weeks I turned off the news because as I listened to many of the experts I felt no decision would have been made and the virus would be much more widespread and consuming everyone’s worries, health and economy.
When the virus H1N1 emerged I was teaching English in China and wore masks home on the plane but felt safe on arrival in New Zealand. After New Zealand had its first case of the virus the community sensed there was more to the situation than with previous recent virus epidemics. Clubs and activities were closing and office workers were sent home to work and I was happy to start staying at home to keep well. Then a week later the Government announced Lockdown Level 3 then 4.
Although we didn’t know how long it would be, as an accountant I have worked from home for 10 years so I felt I could cope with being at home in Level 4 lockdown. I had no family my home town. However the kindness of others whom I got to know as a volunteer was gratefully received in case I could not go out or got sick.
The first week I was very worried about what would happen if I got sick. I had been doing activities in the community and in contact with others. Once the week passed I then felt safe in my bubble, and had the chance to keep out of the mix of people and contribute that to the slowdown of the virus attack. I realised I had been given a shock and needed to treat myself well and find every positive comfort. I needed to keep to a routine and find things to focus on and be thankful that I had one day at a time to make the most of. I needed exercise, outside in the local community, sunshine, sharing with others, creative activities, something new. Every bit of good news from family and friends was wonderful.
In this pandemic in 2020, the difference from 100 years ago was we had technology to keep in touch, watch meetings and films at home which were recorded round the world.
It is only a few years since I gave my father’s and uncle’s photographs of their record of World War Two to the Auckland Museum to record their sacrifice for the future of New Zealand and contribution of who we are. Never did I think that 2020 would create history.
From my bubble a great start to the day has been walking and standing near the trees in Hamilton.
These oak trees were planted over 100 years ago and as I dodged falling acorns I hoped the trees would draw in and absorb the virus as they may have done with the 1919 Spanish flu epidemic. In addition the community left fruit and plants at the gate, pinned up Anzac poppies and dressed teddies in the windows. I knew there were people inside doing the same as I was trying to let the virus have nowhere to go. I added to the daily walking interest by painting acrylic pictures of animals and showing them in my front window. In line with Covid guidelines I had gloves in my jacket pocket and a plastic bag to bring home the community sharing.
Since I was a teenager I have participated in Scottish Country Dancing. As everyone worldwide is
affected and in lockdown the headquarters of the Royal Scottish Country Dancing Society in Edinburgh started weekly online classes. Although there are different time zones the feeling of sharing has been important to me and I enjoy seeing dancers logged in from all round the world. In the evenings I close the curtains, turn up the music and using technology invite dancers to teach from their living rooms and hear their story of their countries’ lockdown. Of course with no-one watching I can dance very well. There were online jigsaws of places I visited last year so I could dream.
For something new I tried weekday morning exercise in front of the TV and enjoyed sharing this with other New Zealanders in lockdown.
In Level 3 and Level 2 for 5 weeks I was sewing for a local childcare centre sharing my skills with the community. When the sewing was delivered we did the appropriate physical distancing of 2 metres at my front door.
Something old, something new happened with shopping. As a child in Auckland we had bread and milk delivered to the letterbox daily and groceries delivered from the local store when required. In 1958 I went shopping with my grandparents at the first supermarket in New Zealand at Otahuhu, Auckland. Shoppers took their own baskets and non-plastic bags. It was a new way of shopping which expanded to today's supermarkets. As an adult I bought supplies most weeks until supermarkets needed to limit people shopping at any time as per Level 4 and 3 Covid guidelines. From 26th March 2020 for 7 weeks my neighbours bought groceries for me and left them on my verandah. In Level 2 when I could get my own supplies I had kept out of shops and public places so I was not confident to go back shopping. In any case I didn’t need to because internet shopping had developed and the supermarkets wanted a spread of people so as few as possible were in the shop. The supermarkets opened early for essential workers and I was thankful to see that the Student Volunteer Army would get groceries for those who could not. So was it old or new, I could sit at my computer and order supplies by click and collect and delivery to my front door. I do wash my groceries as advised but know when they come out of my cupboards they are hygienic also from colds and flu. Internet shopping is continuing with the second lockdown period as I do not need to be in the general mix of people who have to feed families or go to work. To buy New Zealand and local as far as possible for winter comfort I treated myself to 2 online orders to my door with the buzzwords ‘contactless delivery’.
Many times during the night I thought of my family who have passed on. What would they have done in a lockdown pandemic? They volunteered to go overseas and fight in World War two leaving sweethearts in New Zealand and learnt more than they ever wished to tell me. I just needed to sleep in my own bed and cook what I needed.
Mostly I was able to get what food I required for day to day meals. The flour was in short supply as many bought extra to cook at home with no takeaways available and a creative activity for themselves and learning for children. After 4 weeks of not being able to buy flour I shook the bag of flour upside down and used every bit of flour dust to try a recipe. The TV showed cooking programmes which to me was sharing the presenters own home kitchen giving us some inspiration for trying new recipes of what we had left in our cupboards until next shopping day. I found this is a game of making everything as best I could from what I had.
Click and collect is still being used for my borrowing of library books, and the libraries online catalogue is very important for a continuous supply of reading.
I feel there were things that inevitably were missed or not done in the most efficient manner by the wider government people. Everyone scrambled to find their own path at home, at work and abide by guidelines and we are still learning. However I am very grateful and proud that I live in New Zealand. Level 4 and Level 3 merged together. It is hard to be out there doing everything again and I have taken outings in small steps. As Level 2 arrived I was able to drive further than my local area and since Level 1 in the last 7 weeks I have enjoyed dancing with others, days away at a beach and seeing family and friends again. As we go into a second round of the virus the worry returns of how long this will affect the world. The words may be often used at present but I know that this is an extraordinary and unprecedented time in our lives and I must make every day great. If I will be able to travel again is something which is beyond my control but I am able to contribute now by keeping to the best practice available.
Thank you to the essential workers who continue to keep our country working.
From one of the team of 5 million. We all have a different story. Thank you for this opportunity to add my experiences.
75 years old
North King Country
27th August 2020.
To The University of Auckland Covid 19 Research Team,
I am delighted to see your interest in the thoughts of us seniors. So often we feel we are the forgotten demograph in our society.
I am a 74 year young retired dairy farmer and my observation of the approach to the covid processes is, to me, typical of the rural urban divide, or more concisely the rural metropolitan difference.
Firstly is that the whole covid pandemic setup has been devised in Metropolitan Wellington, by Metropolitan Wellington and for Metropolitan Wellington. Designed for the concentrated population places throughout New Zealand.
The rural heartland of New Zealand operates under separate and different sets of social and economic criteria. Our “bubble”, comprising my wife of fifty years and myself, is forty hectares and leased to our neighbour for his extension for milking acreage. Life carried on as normal inside the farm gate with occasional connection with the neighbour and his staff. Cows needed milking, crops needed to be harvested and livestock needed to be shifted. This is the inexorable march of the seasonal nature of agriculture and indeed life. The day to day requirements cannot be parked in warehouses or on shelves as can urban merchandise.
One factor that confounded us and bore witness to the disconnection of government policy from thereal world was the initial arbitrary closing of all food outlets other than supermarkets.( And it has happened again in Auckland this second time around.) It is folly to funnel people into single large collections like this. Life experiences tells us that such congregations increase the opportunity for the spread of any infection and more so with the known volatility of covid 19. Remember your own school years when the common cold or worse, a good bout of ‘flu, circulated through your peers. Fortunately the food supply problem was corrected somewhat after lobbying by the affected businesses. Remember, these businesses, under these circumstances, had their livelihoods at stake and were acutely aware that hygiene and social distancing was paramount to their economic survival. Very little thought and planning was put into the economic balance alongside the health and safety part of the overall equation. Now with the resurgence of covid and the current lockdown it appears that the planners have learnt nothing. We are seeing more of the same blueprint used during the initial lockdown.
I could advance a lot more observations but I will leave such thoughts for another time.
Meanwhile the important consideration is where I and my beloved wife fit into your research criteria. We are, as I have described, early seventies active retirees. The first annoyance was to see ourselves categorized as vulnerable, incapable and IQ deprived old simpletons as found in elderly rest homes. Far from it. Everyone else up to the age of sixty nine is a first class citizen. Why should we, on our seventieth birthday, so suddenly be re-categorised as age-discriminated castoffs. We are a capable, active and involved couple in our rural community as are most of our peers. And at our age we have considerable experiences of life which gives us a clear insight for comparisons, contrasts and analyses for drawing conclusions and making our own decisions. When we left our “bubble”, mainly to shop for supplies, we understood fully the implications and ramifications of the downstream consequences if we didn’t observe simple hygiene and the two meter separation in the company of others. And we made sure that we looked after our self preservation. The first two to three weeks of lock down felt like a holiday with restrictions. It was nice. No places to go, no people to see, no things to do and phone calls to deal with. There were also similarities with our lifestyle in the 1950’s. The slower pace of living, the absence of taken for granted amenities and the relative absence of traffic come to mind as a few examples. The first few days we blobbed and recharged the old batteries. Then we began to look at our rather large section and do a garden plan. Again, nice. Those jobs that had been put aside we could now work on and complete without interruption. Fill the garden rubbish trailer a number of times and take the rubbish up to the dump at the back of the farm. The bigger jobs were done with the chainsaw, farm trailer and front end loader. Done in our own time and at our own pace. And the weather was generally fine and warm. Lesser days would be spent indoors looking in and emptying cupboards, finding things we had forgotten, cataloguing photos and memories and discarding (some) things that we really didn’t need or had no real relevance any more. In between we would take the occasional walk, initially in our “bubble” then drive into town three k’s away and walk the stopbank and park paths.
By the end of the fourth week we were beginning to miss the social interaction with our peers and in particular with our extended families. We have three children and seven grandchildren. Two of the families live in Auckland and the third twenty k’s away in Pirongia. No chance of travel to Auckland. We saw Tracey and the two boys from Pirongia maybe once a week to check on us and bring supplies that we wanted but were not available in Otorohanga. Tough though when we couldn’t hug out daughter or cuddle the boys. Still, under the circumstances, that was life and we all understood that. Since the change to level one lock down our Auckland families have visited a couple of times but we haven’t been to Auckland since March.
Level one for us in the rural scene was back to life as usual. Back to our social circles, Lyceum club for Dianne and the MenzShed and the museum committee for me. And afternoons and evenings out with friends. Yeah! We have yet to go out for celebrations for our fiftieth wedding anniversary and both our birthdays which all happened during full lock down.
From the community observations life and business continued where it left off in March. Most of the businesses are directly or indirectly servicing the surrounding agricultural environment. Businesses servicing the home, garden and recreation are faring well also, benefitting from discretionary funding that couldn’t be spent on overseas travel. The one business that has withered is the local travel firm but the owner and her two staff have been absorbed into other staffing in our community. We look after each other here. That business is, from recall, about the only one that relied on tourism and travel for a living. Otherwise tradies in particular are flat out with two months of deferred work to catch up on.
So now we are back in lock down at level two. My feeling is that our community is not so accommodating this time around. There are some chinks appearing in Madam’s armour. The media is asking lots of questions and the government’s fear program has weakened considerably. And it is obvious to us by now that the government are still “making it up” as each day goes by. We may be old but we are not stupid! We have been around a long time and our comparison and contrast assessments brings the weaknesses and, in some cases, downright incompetence into a very focussed spotlight. To be cynical this being “kind” has its limits. Government leadership and direction is seriously wanting. It seems that few lessons have been learnt from the first lockdown. This time round there should have been robust systems and programmes in place. There should be clear transparent requirements at the border entries and in the managed isolation facilities. And the testing and contact tracing leaves much to be required. We are becoming annoyed with this extremely poor performance by people who should at this juncture know much better.
So where to from here? What are we as the aged demograph able to do about influencing political policies and developments into the future? That will depend on how many of these letters you receive and, more importantly, what you can do with this information in the wider community. Covid 19 is here to stay whether we like it or not. As a nation we cannot sustain continuing lock downs. We need proactive management systems to balance heath with economic stability. Our future cannot support the current human and financial squeezes being inflicted on the nation’s business world. Each subsequent squeeze creates the next level of social and community resentment. Woe betide any further lock down measures.
Read Xu's Chongbin's letter in Mandarin.
2020 is called the Year of the Rat in China. According to some history books, terrible things often occur in such year. And the prophecy came true this year. Since the beginning of 2020, Covid-19 has been spreading in China, this virus has affected many other countries, disturbing the peace of the whole world. At that time, New Zealand, with its unique conditions, was not captured by the virus. The world nowadays, however, is a community of shared destiny, and no nation can stay out of it. Not to mention that New Zealand as a country of developed economy, great environment and inclusiveness, it’s impossible for it to stand out of this crisis. Eventually, the virus invaded this pure land. Facing such menacing virus, the New Zealand government immediately issued the level four alert, which is the lockdown of the whole nation and cities in it, in order to control coronavirus.
My partner and I moved to our daughter’s place in accordance with the government regulations, so that we could take care of each other more conveniently. My life has gone through fundamental changes since we started quarantine at home.
The Chinese association in Browns Bay, in which I am a member, was shut down, so were the English class, singing and table tennis class, and chess and cards activities. My favorite game of go was also under influence, because I had to give up playing against my friends every week. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my plan: one is to travel in west Europe; and also go back to China to visit relatives.
Honestly, I was not used to quarantine at home at the beginning, but I was able to accustom myself to this kind of life after some mental adjustments. I told myself that since I had lost my chance to engage in social activities, I might just enjoy the happiness brought by my families. As an old saying goes, what you lose on the swings, you get back on the roundabout. I enjoyed every moment with my two lovely grandchildren who are full of energy. They had online classes, did homework, played the piano and practiced taekwondo, making themselves occupied every day. I also helped them with their Chinese and taught them how to play the harmonica. We played games and sang karaoke together. That was a time full of family joys.
Life wasn’t boring at all, because I made reading, watching tv and news my daily routine. From time to time, I would do some gardening like mow the lawn, those things brought me joy too. Delicious food had become the theme of our life. Every day we brainstormed to set a list for each meal. Whether Chinese food or western food, if we wanted something new we would search the recipe, in that way we tried fresh meals and had a sense of achievement. We closely followed the news every afternoon to keep up with the situation of coronavirus, looking forward to the end of lockdown.
The rapid development of Internet technology made quarantine life surprisingly easier. We had English classes, lectures and meetings on Zoom. Online shopping and online communication were very easy to access.
During lockdown, even though the whole society ceased to function properly, the supermarkets, transportation and medical systems in Auckland were still serving the citizens to ensure basic supplies. That was why our life wasn’t affected much.
Our jointed efforts put a stop on the level four alert which lasted for four weeks. It symbolized that remarkable results have been achieved in the prevention and control of the epidemic in New Zealand. Later on, the alert went down to level one. There were no new cases in 102 consecutive days. In this period of time, the society restored it normal order, so the Chinese association restarted all the activities. The members went to Shakespeare Regional Park to plant trees. ELP restarted offline English courses. We could say that the first wave of pandemic in New Zealand was well handled by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her administration, which deserved compliments from the whole world.
Nevertheless, the pandemic was still severe worldwide. The sneaky virus kept on spreading. Some cities in America and countries in Europe, Southern America even had multiple waves of this epidemic. Hence, the Prime Minister and Director-General of Health and Chief Executive repeatedly remind people to keep an eye on the virus, or it could come and hit us again.
As expected, after we reopened the border, virus invaded New Zealand again. Soon the second wave of Covid-19 started to spread in communities. To cope with this situation, level three alert was immediately implemented in Mid-August.
Despite that the epidemic was rampant, some churches ignored government regulations and had illegal conventions. Some organizations even protested against the alert for their so-called freedom and human rights. They were even against vaccines and talked nonsense such as “we must learn to coexist with coronavirus”. It was unbelievable how they despised life and trampled on science. Fortunately, the government remained strict on protection and prevention, so that the second wave of Covid-19 could be under control. It was not until September 24th that the alert went down to level two in Auckland. But now “a long tail effect” has appeared in the community transmission chain, and we can see new cases from time to time.
We didn’t expect the long-lasting pandemic to create such severe destruction, because we thought the virus would disappear in half a year. Up to now, it’s been ten months, and the situation in this world isn’t getting any better. Until September 28th, the total number of Covid-19 cases in the world has reached 32 million, with more than 996 thousand cases died. In New Zealand, 1477 people have been infected, and 25 died of it. Currently the virus is still with us, but it is the responsibility of those experts to draw lessons from previous experience. For us, we have to reflect on our own behaviors when facing such shocking numbers. From now on, we must consciously protect the ecological environment and maintain respectful to all the living creatures, otherwise Mother Nature will revenge, by creating tragedies like this in human history.
For us Chinese people, this year October 1st is special, it is the National Day, as well as the Mid-Autumn festival. The Chinese association had a plan to have a formal and proper celebration party, but now it is cancelled. There’s an old saying in China goes “while the priest climbs a post, the devil climbs ten”. As we are getting more experience about how to treat this virus, and vaccine research is progressing, we believe this is the turning point of this epidemic, which indicates that a decisive victory for mankind is just around the corner!
An over 70 view of lockdown. Having my say
The period of lockdown for us (wife and I) was simply one of the best times I’ve experienced. We are lucky enough to live on a lifestyle block about four kms from Palmerston North, we had daily mail and newspaper delivery, and had no difficulty in popping in to the “local” Four Square to pick up milk and eggs when and if we required them. We have a garden although we didn’t manage to get lettuces and greens planted – similarly we didn’t have chooks – although we got four in level three. With a bread maker and being lucky enough to be able to get supplies of yeast and flour (many apparently didn’t) we wanted for nothing. The weather throughout was superb and we quietly worked away at “at home projects”, getting out veg garden weeded, a berry enclosure built and a raft of other projects about the place.
The flower garden got attention, fences were repaired, stock was looked after and we began a major project of cleaning up (prepping) and painting of our big shed. Repairs were made and it was all water-blasted (we have all of the gear in the shed!) and the only thing we had to wait for was obtaining paint once we moved to level three. Buying that online as a pay and collect exercise was fascinating and much more pleasant that going shopping old style. The family had Zoom contact with our three grown-up children and their families, phone contact and one social-distanced visit by one of the family who called in for a chat – didn’t come inside though.
ANZAC was special going out to our rural road at dawn and standing there with a social-distanced neighbour as only a few cars went past – normally a busy state highway!
We wanted for nothing, we had warmth, power, ample supplies and it was peaceful and a happy time. A trip by one of us to the supermarket about once a week got anything else we might need and any luxuries we thought we might like… soooo good!
Having our small farm gave us lots of space to walk, we fed out using our tractor, fixed fences, moved stock, talked to the neighbour over the fence, burned clippings and generally did a raft of things that normally we didn’t have time for. The place got spruced up, lots of maintenance was done, and in short we were thrilled with what was achieved. Nights were quiet – no traffic and few planes going overhead. It was really neat going down our drive (500metres) to get the mail and paper and only seeing one or two cars on the main road. Just like life in the past. Driving in to the shop on the occasions that one of us did, was great. Almost no traffic, people out walking and waving – the only drawback being that on two occasions I ended up in a queue to shop. But even that was ok as it was fine and not windy or cold. Good humour and lots of chat if one wanted to. The daily check in with the PM and the health guy was a must-watch as we shared the updates and news. Missed that when it stopped.
Also followed the train-wreck that is American by daily following CNN – that was/is still, fascinating and served to show the differences between the administrations of our countries. We are/were lucky in the we have our isolation and the ability to pull up the drawbridge as we have done. We hand-washed and sanitised, took great care to make sure that our bubble was secure and kind of still do – although being able to shop normally and live life as we do is something that we will remain grateful for.
In short – a great time and something to look back on positively. I for one, miss it.
2020 the year, the summer hadn't been great
And the news out of Wuhan was unsettling of late
COVID-19 was running rampant we heard
All of it originated from....no not a bird!
The Italians were hit hard with closures all round
The locals were encouraged to keep close to ground
New Zealand was watching with increasing concern
4 Levels to deal with it when it is our turn
The country has closed down, essential work only
We're tucked safe in our home and will not be lonely
2 meters apart as we move through the day
Self-isolation is a small price to pay
We've walked on the beach in the sunshine each day
We're amazed at the people we meet on the way
A neighbour made a shell circle which we've all seen
The tide came each day to wash it so clean
We've tidied the cupboards and cleaned up the house
We even got crafty and caught that wee mouse
We've painted house and cleaned up the garden
How long will that last I hear you all askin'
We're shopping on-line that's the option for us now
Gosh what we've learnt, we've all got the 'know-how'
The veges that come in a truck up the drive
And we're always home waiting for them to arrive
We've baked lots of goodies and even some bread
Gosh better watch out for that COVID-19 spread
Lunch and dinner to be made EVERYDAY
No chance to pop down to bakery today
A 'WASGIJ' was brought out but oh it's so hard
We'll try something else maybe get out the cards
I've got out the knitting a cardi to make
Oh dear not enough wool...after all that cake
We used to be up and about early morn
But now we don't even know when it is dawn
No visitors so no need to keep the house tidy
Maybe I should do some housework this Friday
We've none of our voluntary works to keep us busy
We're missing our family who live in the city
Video calls are the way we now communicate
As long as we get it all over by eight
For all of my grandchildren I've written a story
It is rather funny and not at all gory
I got out the paints and added some pictures
It's hilarious and funny said both of the sisters
It's Friday yippee, the rubbish truck comes
We're out straight away to bring in our bins
And then we get gardening to fill them again
We just have to hope that we don't get the rain
Compared to the virus this is so very small
We must not complain 'tis the best for us all
One day we will visit our family and friends
But we must never forget how we came to this end
The world has given a great sigh of relief
But the respite from this will only be brief
We must always remember how we managed to cope
And head into the changed world with a heart full of hope
Marg Brooker, April 2020
Down a Level - 2020
Anzac Day has come and gone
A most unusual “StandatDawn”
In our driveway we silently stand
The well-known words we understand
A piper played Amazing Grace
Coming from the dark at a sombre pace
A poignant feeling was felt by all
As we stood in answer to the call
Alert Level 4 is coming to an end
With our daily cases under 10
We wait expectantly for the Monday night
Level 3 is what we’ve earned, our right
But tow the line or we will return
To level 4, let’s hope we’ve learned
While Level 3 is much the same
A takeaway coffee will be our gain
5 weeks of lockdown, well 33 days
It possibly passed in a bit of a haze
The wonderful weather has helped us cope
As we start each day with a good dose of hope
Over 70, we’re deemed most vulnerable
But really we feel just so fit and able
We’re keeping ourselves fit, healthy and strong
Shared walks and cycling helps us muck along
Children are learning from home these days
A lot more screen time, let’s not get fazed
Zoom calls with class mates, so much learning
A bit of a break for parents both working
Street isolation drinks bring us together
We’re all out there whatever the weather
Our neighbours are great, staying local we are
We support one another…both near and far
Novel coronavirus wreaks havoc worldwide
Novel it’s not, it hit us broadside
But down here we do our best to defeat
This terrible virus, we’ll not be beat
We now look forward to Alert Level 2
As long as we continue to follow the rules
Please make the most of your current situation
At some stage soon we’ll join again, our nation
Our experience during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although I had listened to news items and read about the Covid 19 pandemic in faraway places, when the government announced the different levels and what that would mean, and then how quickly the whole country went into lockdown, it was a shock.
I am Coralie Smith, a 71-year-old woman living with my 77-year-old husband Trevor in Motueka in the Tasman district. We have been fully retired for 10 years after running various small businesses over the last 46 years that we have been together. We have no children but have wide family groups on both sides. We own our own home, have no mortgage, have some savings and receive the superannuation. My health is very good but Trev has diabetes, heart related problems and lost the sight in his left eye late last year. We both still walk every day and both drive and attend various clubs and groups and do volunteer work.
I volunteer with the Motueka Museum and Motueka Historical Assn and knew things were getting serious when the Trust Board was told by the curator that we may have to close the museum because the volunteers were not feeling safe. Most of them of course are over 70. The museum can’t run without the front desk volunteers. The Board was asked to supply sanitiser, masks and cleaning gear. I was at a meeting of the Board at which we did our first social distancing when someone read from their phone that we were going into Level 4 so any decisions were taken from our hands and the museum would be closing anyway. I felt quite tearful as I drove home when it hit me that the whole country would be closing down. The feeling didn’t last long as my husband and I are practical people and so we spent the next couple of days stocking up on medications, groceries and helping some of our older family members to prepare. Having come from large families and having lived in times when we bought groceries in bulk we had plenty of toilet rolls, frozen goods, tinned and baking items, meat and so forth. I never did get any sanitiser, it was just not available locally so we rediscovered good old Sunlight soap bars that I had in the laundry. Our habit became to get home and wash hands in the laundry as it is in the garage where we usually enter the house.
As a genealogist and a historian I decided straight off to keep a diary of our day to day lives. Not only did it give me something to do it has been a good record of life in a pandemic. What you are reading is a summary of that diary which hasn’t had a regular entry for some weeks. I do go back now and again to say something about New Zealand’s position but more about the world picture.
We were very lucky to be living in a neighbourhood with a mix of ages. Several younger neighbours offered to get our groceries but we only had to use them once. We were blessed with wonderful weather too. We went walking early about 7 am to get our exercise. For some reason I felt uncomfortable being out when the message was that over 70’s were to stay home. So going early meant we didn’t see very many people. We enjoyed walking up the middle of roads that are normally busy with vehicle traffic and it was so quiet. Everybody kept the distance of 2 metres and everybody had a smile, a greeting or a few words to say and these were all strangers in the main. As time went on and we relaxed we would walk along together but never close and of course the talk was of Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Jacinda’s latest 1pm announcements. We were regular followers. We are also computer literate having computers and iPads and mobile phones. That was the most we have ever used them. Everybody seemed to want that contact – checking up, telling what they were doing, encouraging and accepting the situation – texting, zooming, Facebooking, ringing, messaging, the whole works. The idea of bears in windows was a lot of fun too and we did that even though we get very few people passing by and we went walking all over town just to see bears.
We could tell our 7-year-old great nephew what we had seen and swap bear photos. Similarly with poppies for Anzac Day. Only 3 groups stood in our street at 6 am but plenty walked to the war memorial later and went looking for poppies on gate posts and fences. We felt proud to be New Zealanders. A keen amateur photographer and historian, I took plenty of photos of signs, empty streets and bears. I run a couple of history Facebook pages too so got out old games and items from my own collection to use as ideas for followers to do. Pastimes of the past.
I think what also helped in this area was that many people were still working in the horticultural industry. It was the peak of the fruit picking season and 12 out of the 32 people in our cul de sac were working. There were 8 retirees, 6 children and the rest were in jobs where the business was shut down for the duration. Most of those had thought to get some paint or timber to renovate the house or build and paint a fence. We all have gardens and so they got a good tidy up. Our vegetable garden was a god send and we were able to swap amongst neighbours, family and friends. We didn’t go mad baking except for bulk lots of pies and marmalade and plum sauce because we had the fruit to hand.
I am an avid reader and so I had stockpiled on books. I did swap with a couple of friends. We would wet wipe down the books, wrap in paper and leave at each other’s doorsteps. All within walking distance and then we usually wet wiped them again and left them a day or two in case there was a contamination. I did download a couple of ebooks as well.
I added an extra exercise to my usual 10,000 steps a day. I decided to walk round the house and section each day for 20 minutes. I did extend it into the cul de sac after a week as it got boring going round and round our place and could talk to neighbours, none of whom felt the need to join me. When we went down to Level 3 and 2 I gave up the extra exercise and gained weight.
Trevor had been able to get his flu injection before lock down only because he had gone for a regular monthly Vitamin B12 injection and the practice had just got the first of the new season’s vaccine. I was booked to go for mine the next week but the appointment was cancelled due to a lack of vaccine. Probably the only thing that annoyed me about the government’s announcements were that they kept saying “go and get a flu injection” but there were no supplies. I had my name down at the chemist and the doctors and when they rang in May I said I can come straight down and was there in 5 minutes. We stood at an outside door while it was administered and we sat outside in the carpark on chairs while we waited for the required 10 minutes, all set out at 2 metres and I caught up with people who I knew but hadn’t seen for some time. We were all highly amused by the situation and enjoyed the outing.
Trevor was due to have some lasering to his eye. He knew he had lost the sight because of retinal bleed and injections were tried but made no difference but the Nelson Hospital eye specialists wanted to laser it to prevent soreness and pain later in life. This was delayed and he had to have a repeat of the injections to bring down swelling. The first trip to Nelson was most enjoyable as traffic still very light and we were impressed with the tight security and careful handling by the hospital staff from the front door to the clinic itself.
As a former territorial and RSA member Trevor gets assistance under Veteran Affairs. These services were halted and we just made do. We had friends who were in the same position under other health care schemes who were worse off being more physically disabled but they made do and did without and were happy to do so. Trevor was rung by Veteran Affairs checking on his welfare. He was also rung by two suppliers of products he was going to try on his feet for a fungal infection and promised a call back but nothing ever came. Not that it worried him. His local heart group did a ring round as well to check on each other. We did miss going to our usual groups but not to the extent that it got us down. We just relaxed and went with what was asked of us. We had power, heat, communication, a roof over our heads and the super arrived each two weeks and we saved on petrol. I did do two grocery shops where I stood in a queue but there was no argee bargee. Even local petty criminals seemed to enjoy a break. We had it pretty easy compared to many. Having someone else in the house was a definite bonus. Friends on their own had to resort to many phone calls or walks to see a face.
Two events occurred during lockdown that were not so wonderful. My cousin’s husband who had been battling cancer died and she was left to grieve on her own. She was allowed to have one son, his wife and a grandson stand with her and the undertakers at the grave side as he was buried. That was hard for her. The other was the death of our sister-in-law, my brother’s wife, who was living at home with heart related problems under palliative care. Her daughter lived with her and along with her wh?nau we were able to see her before she went away for cremation keeping our distance and being very careful. Although not from local iwi her wh?nau were offered a Zoom tangihanga by the local iwi which they took up. We had never used Zoom before but what a wonderful idea it was. It suited our sister-in-law. It gave closure to her wh?nau and it followed M?ori protocols and met all her wishes from the music played to the photo show, the karanga and prayers. There were tears, laughter and stories as we all sat in our bubbles. Although we missed the hugs and being together it was better than standing all alone by a grave side.
Life for us at Level 1 is pretty much back to normal. We can hear rugby being played at the park over one side and kids are back at school on the other. I do feel for them having their lives tipped upside down but have no family that it has affected adversely. The same with jobs. All are in safe occupations. We have one great niece in Melbourne and that is a worry but she is working and resigned to the fact she won’t be home for Christmas. Her grandmother’s ashes sit waiting to be buried once she can come home. Time will tell if the local shops and tourist operators go out of business. Winter is a quiet time for them anyway but it needs a summer boom of visitors to see them through. Places like Kaiteriteri and the Abel Tasman will always attract half of Christchurch anyway but this year will need more people from other places.
Tasman is a safe Labour seat and even safer this year as the government did perform well during lockdown. We think they should have made their tracking app compulsory for all shops then it would get used more. We use it, it is so easy and habit forming.
The future? Talk of masks and they are already in short supply. I can’t see the use of the ones that aren’t washable and don’t have the wherewithal to make any. We would wear them for sure but would probably restrict how often we went anywhere. That seems to be the easiest way. Roll on a vaccine and the dying out of the coronavirus. It has been a real wake up call for us all and we can survive when we put our minds to it. Kia kaha New Zealand.
Dear Professor Gott
Having just seen that reminder about your “Have our say project” in the newsletter of the NZ Society of Genealogists, I thought I would write a few comments about my experience with the Covid-19 lock-down.
I am an 85-year-old male, born in the Netherlands, so I came through WW2, and can remember quite a bit of it. I had 3 narrow escapes of surviving bombings since my family lived then in a suburb of Nijmegen which was frontier city from September 1944 to March 1945, when the Battle of Arnhem put a stop to Eisenhower’s plans of a rapid push into Germany. So I felt that having survived that, I should be able to cope with surviving the constraints of Covid-19.
I think I survived admirably since I have my wife [who is 76] as company so that we did not feel lonely. Moreover, under level 4, we had our children leaving food supplies for us, so that we did not have to starve. Once we got the hang of ordering supplies on line, we did not even have to put our children at risk any longer.
My wife and I are both sufficiently computer-literate to keep in contact with friends, both in NZ and throughout the world. We are both involved in voluntary organisations which kept communications going via Zoom. I correspond with a very large group of people so that I may have spent too much time behind the computer, being a two-finger typist. But every so often I would walk around the block during lock-down, which is a 20-minute walk. In addition, I have a large vege garden which also kept me busy and supplied us with veges during most of the lockdown. I still do my own lawns on my quarter acre section, and trim hedges that don’t involve ladders etc. And I can repair most things if they break down. We did not have any breakdowns that required skilled tradespersons during the lockdown. We did not even spend our time preparing for downsizing…! And we did not have any health problems during the lock-down.
Some people might think me a bit introverted because I can very well manage on my own, but needless to say, it is great to have my wife’s company and conversations. Our house is big enough so that we could do our own thing, without getting in each other’s way or hair. We enjoyed being able to communicate via telephone or computer, especially the Zoom sessions where you could see each other, including our children and grandchildren. We did not really watch much more TV than usual, i.e. we were not bored. My wife reads a lot. We faced very few challenges as indicated above, and having survived the war and the adjustment to life in NZ, I consider the lock-down period perfectly manageable.
However, I am intensely annoyed at the irresponsibility of people who take Covid-19 very lightly. The analogy with wartime lock-down is not inappropriate for this pandemic which is going to challenge NZers for several years yet. But the younger generations who protest about all the constraints that are being imposed on them, have of course no experience of wartime occupation. So they don’t know how lucky they are to have a government that listens to medical experts and acts on that advice, unlike the US president, and similar “leaders”.
When the lock-down eased, it was great to be able to select your own supplies in the supermarket or local butcher; go to the pictures and concerts, and visit friends and family again. If you seek additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Dr Nick Lambrechtsen QSM
Thoughts during Covid-19 Quarantine
Read Xu Minqi’s letter in Mandarin
In 2020, coronavirus spread to almost every country on this planet. According to the report on September 14th, nearly 30 million people was infected, and over 90 thousand died of it. This epidemic is a tragedy to humankind. Although governments all over the world took different measures to control the virus, the New Zealand government had done a much better job.
New Zealand has had level 4 and level 3 alarms, and both of them were on point. These smart moves, which showed respect for life and people, have effectively restrained the virus. Controlling the spread of this virus damaged this country’s economy, however, citizens’ health should be the priority. As long as there are people, everything will go back to normal, and development can be achieved.
How a government handles the virus reflects its governing capacity. More importantly, most New Zealanders are good citizens and residents who act in accordance with government regulations, which helps keep a lower infection and mortality rate.
As a senior citizen, I belong to the high-risk group of getting infected. It’s our basic responsibility to follow the government guidance, minimize the chance of getting infected in order to reduce the burden on the government.
In February 2020, the situation in Wuhan, China, had already been serious. When my son-in-law and my grandson came back from China, we arranged a new room for them to quarantine separately from us for half a month. During that time, I collected their tableware, which I cleaned and disinfected. I used to be a surgeon, so I know well about disinfection and sterilization, and I think it should also be effective in avoiding infectious diseases.
My granddaughter is in high school now. Her mother sent her to her classmate’s place for two weeks’ quarantine.
This May, when we were in lockdown, I needed my medicine. So, I informed my doctor of my needs and the pharmacy near my house. The doctor sent the prescription before we called the pharmacy to set a time of delivery. Then, my meds were put outside my house, very punctual and convenient. In this way we also avoided contact.
At our community center, we have all kinds of amazing activities, and English class for the elderly is one of them. Before the lockdown, we had English class every Wednesday and Saturday. Every class attracted a large crowd. During lockdown, we had to stop coming to the class. But the teachers started online courses according to ELP ?English Language Partner?through Zoom. We were thrilled to see each other online and gave our best wishes to each other. Of course, we should be thankful for these teachers, because they have been volunteering in this community for over a decade, and have continued teaching during such a special time.
My wife and I have some Chinese friends, with whom we often go travelling, dine out and talk about the culture in New Zealand, our kids’ life and work, as well as our grandchildren. We enjoyed those moments. Now during lockdown, I feel disappointed that we can’t do the same. Modern technology, however, has provided us with methods of communication. WeChat has been the most common way for us to chat whether in words, voices or video. It’s very easy, and we as seniors like it very much.
I also fancy going out, getting on public transportation, including bus, train and ferry. I have been to many places in Auckland, therefore I can say I know the city well. For example, the layout of towns, transport facilities, shopping malls, residential styles, public gardens, museums, etc. I took pictures of the scenery that interested me and saved them in memory card so that I can relive those moments when I’m too old to go out. Of course we cannot do these recently, I just walk around my house. My wife and daughter have repeatedly warned me not to take public transportation. Recently, I walked to a bus station. Seeing all the passengers waiting there were wearing masks, I couldn’t resist the temptation of getting on the bus. We were only allowed to use the back door, and there was a stop sign between the driver and the pass to the front door. Both the driver and the passengers were wearing masks, which made me feel that New Zealanders were models of law-abiding.
We should prepare ourselves to live with Covid-19 for a long time, and we are supposed to always do personal protection, not go to any gathering. Whenever we go out, we should wear a mask and use tissues to press the button at the crossroads and on a bus. Disinfection needs to be done properly. We need to wash hands and face immediately when we get home. When meeting with others, masks and social distancing are required. The virus is still a mystery. Its source and ways of infection still remains unclear. Not to mention it has been mutating, no one knows how effective the vaccine can be, because it may work on one type of coronavirus and fail on another. Maybe the virus will last a very long time. Throughout the history, humans have been challenged by countless pandemics, but we manage to cure many diseases that affect human health badly, like small pox, malaria, schistosomiasis, poliomyelitis with the efforts of scientists. I believe scientists can help us triumph over Covid-19, it’s a new challenge facing them.
October 8th, 2020
Access the first journal article to be published from this project. (More are in the works.) 'More than mortality data: a news media analysis of COVID-19 deaths in Aotearoa, New Zealand.'Access more of our research
The Have Our Say website is part of research funded by Auckland Medical Research Foundation
The project is led by Professor Merryn Gott and the bicultural Te Arai: Palliative Care and End of Life Research Group in the School of Nursing.