Coping with cocooning: ‘This morning I “escaped”. It was a necessity’

Covid Stories: Two weeks in, readers over-70 share how they are coping with cocooning

Two weeks after the over-70s were advised to “cocoon” in their own homes to protect themselves from Covid-19, The Irish Times invited readers to tell us how they are coping. Here’s what some of you had to say.

S O’Leary, Dublin: ‘This morning I “escaped”. It was a necessity’

I live on the third floor of an apartment block, in an apartment complex, surrounded by very pleasant grounds. I am a widower. I live alone. I’ll be 73 in a fortnight. Every day during the past two weeks of strict cocooning, I have walked around the walls and in and out of the furniture of my apartment for two 15-minute sessions. This morning I “escaped”. It was a necessity. From 6.30am to 7am I briskly walked the circular road within the complex six times. I walked in the centre of the road, ready to move to either side if someone came along the pathways. I met no one. It was a beautiful morning - fresh clear air, streaks of pinky red sky to the east, a chorus of birdsong. I feel invigorated. Was I being a bold boy?

Yesterday had been an anxious day. I had all the symptoms of Covid-19 and none. In the warm afternoon weather it was difficult to air the apartment without being either too cold or too hot or in too much of a draft. Did I have a temperature or not? Was that a dry cough? Worries crowded in. At such times, in normal times, I would go for a hike in the Dublin mountains and right myself. The pandemic has robbed me of that option. I “escaped” instead.

Constance Morris: ‘I FaceTime with my son in Denmark’

Walking round and round the small garden like a hamster on a wheel, I have started learning a (cheerful) poem each day to recite over and over. Strangely, this helps. Cooking is important, eating far too enjoyable, hence the need for the walking, dancing, stretching, bending, moaning! I FaceTime with my son in Denmark. Yesterday I literally watched paint dry as he showed me the kitchen walls he had painted winter white. I feed the birds and visiting cats. I read for hours, and watch TV, and make telephone calls to the less technologically inclined. I do a French class online, and a study course on the Covid-19 virus, but I wish I hadn’t taken that on. I spring clean more seriously than any attempt I’ve made over the past 50 years.


Joan Brennan: ‘My husband has dementia, so some days are better than others’

I get up every morning between 9am and 10am, have a shower and get dressed. I have breakfast, pick out three thing to do that day and get them done. My husband has dementia, so some days are better than others, but we are very lucky to have a garden to be out in, and that it is spring.

B Dermody: ‘I miss the pub’

As we are already out in the country, the restrictions don’t affect us as much as if we were in the city. We completely ignore the cocooning stuff. I walk the dog every day, and we both shop in the local shops. I miss not being able to get to the pub, and my wife misses her outings. We are both well capable of walking and getting around, and have enough cop-on to avoid infection occasions.

Tom Sheedy, Dublin: ‘We use Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp’

We haven’t left our cocoon at all. Our daughter, who lives nearby, does our shopping. I like to run for fitness. So, most days, I do a 30-minute run, taking in both our front and back gardens. I’ve made a little progress on organising and tidying in the house and garage. Lyric is on most of the time, and I’m getting more reading done than before. We use Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp for “coffees” and chats with friends and family, and to keep up speaking French with friends. We’re getting on fine as a couple. My wife does lots of gardening. But we are both looking forward to being able to go out for a walk and to resuming normal life. I’d advise other cocooners to exercise, to get stuck into a good book and not spend too much time on social media.

Margaret Franklin, Westmeath: ‘I am feeling the loneliness more keenly now’

I am in my 70s, but thankfully, I am perfectly healthy. But because of my age, I have to stay in my “cocoon”, under house arrest. My husband died suddenly just three years ago, so I now live alone. None of my family live nearby, so I haven’t seen them for weeks. I have been lonely since my husband died, so I am feeling the loneliness even more keenly now. Last Sunday was the third anniversary of his death, but my family could not be with me and I couldn’t even visit the cemetery to lay flowers on his grave.

My daughter has had to postpone her wedding, which had been planned for the weekend after Easter, and we are all very upset about this, but we understand the reason for these measures. I couldn’t visit my granddaughter on her fifth birthday, on March 17th. But I am thankful that we are all well and healthy. There are so many people in a worse situation, whose loved ones are very ill, or who have died from the Covid-19 virus. I admire and applaud the healthcare workers, who are caring for those who are ill with the virus and are risking their lives in doing so.

I am fortunate to have a large garden, which had been lovingly tended, for many years, by my late husband. So I can get out in the fresh air, especially during this spell of fine weather. The daffodils are almost finished now, but the tulips are bursting into bloom and make such a colourful display.

I am fortunate to have modern technology, which helps me keep in touch with family and friends. We have a family WhatsApp group, I use Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. I was able to set up a family Zoom session, on the eve of my husband’s anniversary, at a time that suited my son and his family in Canada. It was the first time I had hosted a Zoom meeting and it was great to be able to see my four adult children and their partners, as well as my three grandchildren, on the screen all at the same time.

I took my violin out of its case and started playing again, which I had not done in years. I am doing an online course with FutureLearn, to learn more about this novel coronavirus. I watch the news and current affairs programmes on RTÉ, to keep up with the progress of this pandemic, as it sweeps across the globe. It has made me realise that we are all in this together and we live in a global village. Thanks to the restrictions in place, difficult though they are at the moment, I have hope that we will come through this. I am trying to stay positive.

Gerard O’Brien: ‘Living on my own has prepared me somewhat’

It’s been tough. Finding things to do in my house is not a problem, and I am so busy. A lady who calls to help me every two weeks now is not able to visit. Living on my own for the past five years has prepared me somewhat for something like this, and I have a son and daughters within 5km or so. At the moment they are getting my groceries regularly. I have been unable to get through to Tesco, hard though I tried. I think the cocooning of over 70s is a little unfair. I think the Government should allow us maybe just an hour each day to go for a little walk... the mental health of elderly people is very important too. But I do understand why this is being done.

Dan Brennan: ‘We stay calm and carry on’

I am good, but it takes some work. We live in a country town with a fair about of land. So I find things to do, small home projects and outside landscaping. I enjoy it all. Staying up on all that is going on in the world is important. I use the TV and internet for that. In the afternoon, a glass of wine or beer is very important. We do miss the grandkids, which makes us sad, but that will change. We stay calm and carry on.

Eugene Russell: ‘I feel frustrated that I can’t go out for my walk’

I am coping well with cocooning, but as a fit over-70 who walks and plays golf regularly, I feel very frustrated that I can’t go out for my regular walk in the park. I would be very cognisant of the need to be socially distant.

Barbara Fitzgibbon: ‘We feel useless, a potential burden on society’

A cocoon, according to the dictionary, is a silky case spun by the larvae of many insects for protection as pupae. And so we over-70s are encased for our own protection, but much more for the safeguarding of health care workers and younger folk of 69 and under, so we stay well clear of hospitals and avoid cluttering up the hard-pressed ICUs all around the country. A highly commendable reason, one we fully agree to, but it’s difficult to submit meekly.

We are only two weeks into the self-isolating period, and already it’s beginning to irk. We feel useless, a potential burden on society, unable to do any of the ordinary everyday things we took for granted like posting a letter, buying our groceries, taking a swim or a drive or a walk in the country, visiting the grandchildren and helping our offspring take a break, popping out to our local church, or bar, or even - oh luxury! - enjoying an occasional meal out.

Having survived this first fortnight in isolation, we realise how fortunate we are to have access to food and medicines (thanks to kind younger neighbours and family who queue and shop on our behalf), to have a constant source of fresh water, a spacious home and sufficient garden to keep ourselves fit and well in and out of doors. We have WhatsApp to keep in touch with family and friends around the world, TV and radio and opera and church services beamed into our living room. This cocooning is a lot less lonely and far more comfortable than the days we spent together at sea on our 12-metre sailboat when we were younger. Knowing that we are doing it for the general good enables us to do what is required.

We are sad and anxious for all those who have lost jobs, for the seriously ill and dying, for bereaved families and front-line staff who are overworked and potentially exposed. But if we face each day one at a time, offer support in whatever way we can, stay cheerful and positive, because we know that together we can get through.

To reflect the many ways life has changed in Ireland by the coronavirus outbreak, The Irish Times is inviting readers to share their Covid Stories. To submit yours, click here.