A Day in the Life: My long days of shielding – Doris, 88

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shielding pensioner doris chambers pudsey

Pudsey 88-year-old Doris Chambers lives by herself and has been shielding since late March.

In an interview with community reporter Jo Fiddes she talks about why Clap for Carers is a weekly highlight – and how knitting and looking at cards and letters lifts her spirits on the long and lonely evenings...

Memories: Doris with husband Harold.

The day begins…

Doris was an early riser throughout her working life, but since losing her husband Harold in 2004, she has tried to have a long lie in, nowadays getting out of bed at around half ten every morning:

“Days can seem endless so I try to have a lie in whenever I can, even more so now I’m having to be shielded as I don’t see anyone regularly.

“I miss having my nails and hair done once a week, and also my weekly trip to Morley for lunch in the café. Just seeing people and chatting about ordinary things like holidays and the weather.”

Doris in younger days with son, Mark.

Every other day, one of her daughters calls with shopping or plated up meals which are left on the doorstep.

Conversations from opposite ends of the garden path are difficult as Doris is losing her hearing.

One of her daughters has taken to writing to her – Doris says this helps as:

“When I am feeling down I can take the cards and letters out and remind myself that although I’m lonely I’m not alone.

“Since my husband died I’ve had times of intense loneliness but nothing quite matches this. I miss him even more than ever now.”

The day unfolds…

A sandwich lunch (“making something warm seems too much of an effort most days”) is usually followed by repeats of Emmerdale and Coronation Street, and sometimes phone calls to family and friends. She also tries it fill the long hours with purposeful activities such as knitting and gardening.

Two of Doris’s children are also shielding. This means phone calls are the best way for them all to keep in touch – Doris isn’t a lover of technology so has resisted the internet up till now, although she thinks it would have been useful in the current situation.

Thursday evening’s Clap for Carers is a weekly highlight for her – clapping alongside her neighbours in this shared appreciation of our NHS and care workers makes her feel part of something and gives her a connection with others, albeit from a safe distance.

The Troydale cul-de-sac on which she lives is “close knit and everyone looks out for each other.

The children next door have made me rainbow pictures for my window and I know they are thinking of me. My next door neighbours also make me a Sunday dinner every week.”

The day ends…

The evenings drag for Doris, although she tries to keep herself occupied with reading and knitting. She always watches the news as “I like to know what’s going on.”

She goes to bed after midnight, waiting till she is as tired as possible as falling to sleep can be difficult.

“I’m knitting loads of baby clothes for my new great-grand daughter, due in August. I hope this is all over by then so I can see her in person. Although I have times when I’m really lonely, I know I’m luckier than lots of people. I have family who live nearby and really good neighbours. Some people have no-one.”

Although sticking to social distancing and shielding guidance is essential in the current crisis, staying at home with limited human contact clearly has a significant impact on our well-being – and in particular, feelings of loneliness.

Even before the epidemic, the Office of National Statistics reported that loneliness is a growing problem in the UK with 2.4 million adults feeling lonely.

The current situation gives us all opportunities to reach out and connect with people who might be lonely – hopefully these connections will remain when the crisis is over.

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