Angela’s Story: Freedom and future cramped by an unhealthy narrative

We’ve all felt restricted by lockdown and are itching to get back some of our freedom. But for many, the new world is still rife with anxiety. Angela is retired, and lives in London with her husband who is medically high risk. Because of this, she has been unable to look after her granddaughter throughout the lockdown, “which I find heart-breaking”.

As lockdown measures begin to ease, Angela finds that her life is still restricted by anxiety about the health of her and her partner: “my future feels horribly cramped.”

Angela is nervous that, in many ways, the easing of lockdown and societal changes stemming from the pandemic are likely to marginalise those who are already vulnerable. “I think that uneven attitudes to risk will mean that some people will quickly return to normal and others will be marginalised. I think that families will come under enormous strain as they negotiate differing levels of risk tolerance (and differing levels of risk).”

Older people are more likely to rely on public transport, and unlike younger and perhaps fitter generations, may not benefit from the cycling revolution. However, for Angela, public transport still does not seem like a safe mode of travel and fear of transmission has prevented her from using it: “I feel desperately worried that my life will be massively limited by the fact that it will be harder for older people to use public transport safely. I used to travel everywhere by public transport.” Angela has not used it once since lockdown was implemented. “I can see a world in which I will only be able to travel as far as I can walk.”

Angela does believe that young people should be given freedom as lockdown ends. “But if they are to go about their daily lives as usual and revive the economy they need to understand that their actions will impact on other more vulnerable people.” Angela wants people to be far more conscious by using facemasks and giving more ‘breathing space’ to older people.

While the cycling revolution may not benefit her directly, she believes that more younger people using cycle lanes mean less on public transport, making it safer for her. “We need a new narrative in which the fit and healthy are encouraged to consider their duty of care to their fellow citizens and we need Government action to create a safer environment.”

“What we need is an entirely new narrative in which care for the vulnerable is in the centre.” For Angela, this means crafting policies which are centred on returning them to a level of normality.

Angela’s story is a stark reminder of the possible marginalisation that could result from changes during and after Covid-19. Some people will feel much more hesitant than others about lockdown restrictions easing, and may feel unable to participate in daily life for a while to come. Our ‘new normal’ needs to consider everyone in the community, and ensure people can participate in ways they feel comfortable.