VOICES OF LEWISHAM
“All of a sudden it hit me that I was seen as vulnerable.”
Iris Till, 79, is a wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother, an avid Fulham FC supporter and chair of Lewisham’s Positive Ageing Council. She retired from her 35-year career as a social worker just before her 70th birthday and has lived in Forest Hill for 56 years.
“The biggest challenge for me at the height of the pandemic was not being able to get out into the community and do the things that I am involved in. I am a volunteer at a food bank in Hope Church in Downham, I’ve been there for five years. I got an email at the start of lockdown to say that because I was over 70, I couldn’t do the volunteering at the moment because of COVID. All of a sudden it hit me that I was an older person and seen as vulnerable.
“Also, not being able to go and see family. There’s two of us here, but in France we’ve got a son and daughter-in-law, two grandsons, a grandaughter-in-law and a great grandaughter. And in Cambridge we’ve got a son and daughter-in-law, four grandchildren and a great grandaughter. It was a bit of a blow, not knowing quite when we could visit. We are still waiting for the opportunity to see our family in France. Thank goodness for technology - we can speak and video regularly.
“Another big challenge was that my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer just before the pandemic. He was given radiotherapy in the middle of July and August. That was very challenging for him, but I was anxious the whole time. He’s doing well. Alan is somebody who always has a smile on his face and a positive attitude. I’m so lucky.
“I’ve never felt I’ve had a mental health problem, but there have been times this year where I have become quite anxious. I’ve become more worried if any of us get a cold, or if my husband is going on the train for hospital appointments. I’m hoping we won’t see the extremely high rate of deaths that we witnessed earlier in the pandemic, but unless test, track and trace have been improved, sadly this winter is going to highlight these health issues again.
“Another event that is high on my list that I’ve not been able to attend is Fulham FC games. It’s not just the football, it’s the friendships I’ve made, and travelling on a coach with the supporters, and friends, to away matches.
“We have wonderful friends and neighbours who have done all our shopping, made sure that we were alright, always phoning. The Council called me too, to make sure we were well supported. When the pandemic started, we had a WhatsApp chat created for our road which was very useful. If someone had too much of something or had made a cake, they would offer it round. This has kept us going, we’re very fortunate. Positive Ageing Steering Group also set up a support chat line. The constant happy messages, pictures and videos have kept me uplifted during the most difficult of days.
“My fear is for the young people and families with young children as jobs go. Food banks become busier, and needed for more and more people. We have all sorts of people using food banks for a number of reasons. Last week 116 people queued up for the one I volunteered for. The number has shot up.
“This pandemic has highlighted the gap between young people in education. I hope we as a country will make sure all young people have the same opportunities, whatever path they follow.
“This pandemic has given me more time at home, I’ve tried to keep positive. Reminiscing has brought many a laugh as we recall memories of our childhood. My grandma used to remind us frequently, ‘make do and mend’, which I’m seeing now as people are wasting less.
“Throughout the difficult times the thing that has kept me buoyant is the togetherness of communities working together for the best outcome for all.
"Long may it continue".
Iris spoke to us in November 2020