When my 88-year-old mother’s landline broke a few weeks ago, we quickly realized how much of a lifeline it had been during the Covid-19 pandemic. As an elderly person living alone who refused to have a cell phone, suddenly we no longer had direct daily contact with her and her personal alarm – which was linked to her landline number – did not work. during the few days it took to get her landline. work again.

Our reliance on cell phones became evident during the Covid-19 pandemic, not least because if you take a Covid test, you get the results directly sent to your cell phone number (they also go to your general practitioner and can be received by Publier). And if you are a close contact of someone who tests positive for Covid-19, cell phone numbers are the most useful way for contact tracers to contact you.

The Health Service Executive’s new Keeping Well this Winter booklet – distributed free to all households this month – highlights the importance for seniors of using the contact numbers of a family member or friend close in case of emergency if they do not have a cell phone themselves. Only 30% of people aged 80 and over had a smartphone or tablet, according to a study carried out in May by researchers at Trinity College Dublin.

“If you are an elderly person without a cell phone, you should ask a friend or relative if you can use their cell phone number as a contact,” says Dr Greg Martin, a public health doctor who helped put set up contact tracing. system in Ireland.

Dr Martin says people should also offer their cell phone number as a contact number if they have a friend or relative without a cell phone. “We encourage people to have conversations with friends, neighbors or relatives who may need help making sure they have a cell phone number when needed,” he says.


Missing or wrong contact details are a challenge for the testing and contact tracing system, so having this conversation will be very important if anyone needs a test. “There are other vulnerable groups of people such as the homeless, people in direct assistance centers, those who have recently arrived in Ireland and people who do not speak English who also need to ask someone if they can use their cell phone number as a contact, says Dr. Martin.

There is plenty of advice in the Keeping Well this Winter booklet, especially for seniors living alone during the pandemic. He encourages older people to keep written records of contact numbers for their family, friends, GP and pharmacy, as well as details of their medications. It also includes the national community call number – 0818-222024 – if assistance is needed with the delivery of food, medicine, fuel or other medical or healthcare needs. Each local authority continues to call for volunteers who will visit people when they need help in any way.

The booklet also contains helpful reminders about the importance of eating and sleeping well, exercising daily, getting general check-ups and keeping your mental health healthy. There are contact numbers for organizations such as the Samaritans (116-123 free call from a landline or mobile number).

And as if we needed it, it also reminds us how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and what to do if you experience any of the symptoms of Covid-19. There is a helpful chart comparing flu, cold, and Covid-19 symptoms to help you tell them apart.

And yes, my mom has since agreed to carry – and use – a cell phone whenever she’s away from home – or in the unlikely event that her landline doesn’t work anytime soon.

Alone operates a national helpline – 0818 222 024 – for the elderly every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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