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Chief Medical Officer Prof Breda Smyth Sam Boal/
breda smyth

'Go back to doing the things you love': CMO writes post-pandemic open letter to older people

Prof Breda Smyth said she wanted to reassure people who were concerned about the spread of Covid that it is safe to go out and about.

IRELAND’S CHIEF MEDICAL Officer has encouraged older people to go back to activities they enjoy that they may have given up since the Covid-19 pandemic, to combat loneliness and isolation.

Prof Breda Smyth said in an open letter to older people in Ireland that there is a strong link between loneliness and chronic health conditions, but many “still feel apprehensive about getting out and about.”

The letter is part of a government campaign called ‘Hello Again World’ aimed at tackling loneliness and isolation among older people.

In her letter, Smyth thanked older people for adhering to advice to cocoon and stay at home. “Your compliance with public health restrictions played a significant role in Ireland’s successful response to the pandemic,” she said.

“In doing as you were asked, you will have missed out on family moments, or precious time with friends and neighbours doing the things you always enjoyed.

No one should under-estimate the impact of this isolation or the sense of loneliness that comes from the sudden disconnect from family and community

“We know that there is a strong link between loneliness and chronic health conditions, including heart and lung disease, stroke, and disorders such as obesity … It’s important that we re-build the connections that may have been lost during the pandemic.

Smyth added that she understood that many people were still apprehensive about going out. “So, I would like to offer my reassurance that today we are – thankfully – in a much better place. We have access to safe, effective vaccines.

“We know these vaccines save lives and help protect us from the worst effects of COVID-19.

Your vaccinations offer a high level of protection, so you can feel safe while engaging with others. We also have effective antiviral treatment.

She said that while people were learning to live with Covid, “we cannot allow it to steal more years from us.

“If you haven’t yet returned to doing the things that you love, I am encouraging you to do so now. Spend time with grandchildren, re-join local clubs or activities or get involved in your local community.”

Launching the Hello Again World campaign, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said: “I know that older people, in particular, paid a high price during the pandemic as they were the first group that were asked to cocoon. Understandably, they may feel nervous about re-engaging socially but it’s a very positive step for health as it helps combat loneliness.”

Minister of State for Older People Mary Butler added: “This campaign is especially aimed at older members of our society, who may have found themselves at a great risk of loneliness and isolation over the past couple of years. They don’t have to continue feeling lonely, as there are so many opportunities to connect with others in communities around the country.”

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