1 Feb 2022

Omicron spread a 'huge worry' for Grey Power members

6:37 am on 1 February 2022

Families across Aotearoa are making contingency plans for loved ones in aged care after an Auckland rest home's suspected close call with the highly infectious Omicron variant.

Mature couple walking in the park in the afternoon

(File image) Photo: 123RF

Summerset by the Park Flat Bush was locked down when a kitchen worker tested positive for Covid-19, but all other staff and residents have since tested negative.

Now other rest homes are bracing for outbreaks.

Grey Power president Jan Pentecost, 77, said the spread of Omicron was a "huge worry" for the organisation's 55,000 members.

"This variant may well decimate, for periods of time, caregivers for our people who live at home and get care, and aged care workers in rest homes."

Pentecost was also concerned most public health information about Covid-19 was provided via digital platforms.

"Especially [for] older, older people - people over 80 are not proficient at using that medium."

Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace said for rest homes that were Covid-19-free, it was mostly "business as usual" at the red traffic light setting.

In most facilities, visits can go ahead, if adults are masked and double vaccinated. Visits with children can happen outside.

"The only occasion where a rest home might close down to visitors, or lockdown, is when they have an Omicron outbreak or a Covid outbreak, in their particular facility."

Gerontologist Carole Gordon studied older people's lockdowns in 2020 and thought that sometimes social restrictions were too harsh.

"One of the sad things was that people living in retirement villages, whose lives should be as normal as possible, were also closed down because the rest home needed to be closed. Whereas in fact, they should be able to continue their lives in much the same way as people living in the community."

Gordon, who is 80 years old, said she was not so scared of Omicron now that she had had her booster dose.

"New Zealand has been so proactive, and people like myself are grateful, really grateful, that we've got such a huge measure of safety. So I feel safe."

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