'It's like being in prison': Seniors say it's hard to stay at home despite latest advisory

Seniors said they were aware of the risks but felt cooped up at home. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - After a long day at work, Mr Ismail, 65, usually unwinds at an open-air plaza in Lorong 4 Toa Payoh before going home at about 10pm.

There, he grabs a cup of coffee from the nearby coffee shop, listens to music, and chats with friends from the neighbourhood.

Like many seniors who were out and about on Thursday (Sept 30), the civil servant, who declined to give his full name, has found it tough to shelter at home despite the advisories urging those above the age of 60 to stay indoors as much as possible, amid a growing number of Covid-19 infections and deaths among the elderly.

The latest warning came from the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), which on Thursday called for all seniors aged 60 and above, especially those who are unvaccinated, to stay at home for the next four weeks while the Covid-19 situation in Singapore stabilises.

Seniors told The Straits Times they were aware of the risks but felt cooped up at home.

"I cannot tahan (Malay term for endure). It's like being in prison," Mr Ismail said.

"I don't know what to do. Watching TV is also very dull."

Asked if he was worried about catching the virus, especially since he lives with his 89-year-old mother, Mr Ismail said one could get infected anywhere. He and his mother are fully vaccinated and are waiting to get their booster shots.

At a block of rental flats in Sin Ming, Mr Tan Kim Seng, 76, was sharing the void deck with four elderly residents from the same block. They sat apart from each other on benches, reading newspapers or looking at their phones.

All five said they were fully vaccinated and had received or are waiting for their booster shots.

"There is no one to talk to at home," said Mr Tan, who is single and works part-time as a cleaner. "I am not scared of getting the virus. As long we don't sit too close, we are careful and we wear our masks properly, it is okay."

At Berseh Food Centre, retired electronics technician Pek Hock Chai, 63, said he accepted the advice was for the sake of seniors like him, but he had to get out to eat sometimes.

"Cooking the same few things at home gets monotonous," said Mr Pek, who lives in Eunos.

There were mixed views about AIC's advice for those who are infected with Covid-19 to isolate themselves if they have mild or no symptoms.

Those without anyone at home said they felt vulnerable.

Mr Tan Ah Chuan, 71, who lives alone, said it was reasonable to expect fully vaccinated seniors with only mild symptoms to recover at home, but he worries about who would care for him should his symptoms suddenly worsen.

He is also worried he would miss notifications sent by the Health Ministry to his phone as he cannot read English, and has limited Chinese reading skills.

The retired odd-job labourer said: "I feel safe cycling near my home because I already took my booster shot on Sept 22, and I have been very fit and healthy for as long as I can remember. Everyone needs fresh air, it's very boring and stifling to stay at home all the time."

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