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Fighting loneliness and COVID-19 in Vietnam

When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began to spread through Asia, Vietnam acted quickly to stop the virus in its tracks, but the lockdown measures can leave vulnerable older people isolated and without support. Luckily, Age International is there to help.

Mrs My with homecare volunteer Mrs Hang

Nguyen Thi My is 67 years-old and visually impaired. She has lived alone since the death of her mother 11 years ago, and her children and relatives live elsewhere, rarely visiting. She also has no phone or television, so had limited access to information about the coronavirus pandemic.

Fortunately, she has been a member of one of our Intergenerational Self-Help Club (ISHC) since 2018 and through the group has been able to receive help from homecare volunteers, who take care of her and support with her daily life.

“With the companionship of the ISHC, I feel very happy. The ISHC activities are very valuable and meaningful to me.”

The group was able to support her when she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, helping with her treatment. Now, the diagnosis puts her in one of the most vulnerable groups for COVID-19 – disabled older people with cancer. And although community activities have been put on hold for now, the ISHC volunteers have been given coronavirus training and are continuing to support her and pass on vital COVID-19 prevention guidance.

“They (the ISHC’s volunteers) visit every few days to help with the weeding and the garden. Since the day the club was established, I feel much more happy and joyful. They keep visiting and support me with the weeding and talk to me.”

The pandemic has caused economic hardship for lots of older people, as the lockdowns mean they cannot work or access their usual support, and Mrs My is no exception. Like many of the older people we work with, the small pension she receives doesn’t cover her expenses.

“As I cannot see anything, I cannot do anything to earn money. Before the pandemic, I went to the church or temple to ask for donations from other people. But since the outbreak occurred, I cannot go anymore”.

If it wasn’t for the ISHC, she would be isolated during the crisis. Age International’s role supporting older people like Mrs My and championing their rights and needs has never been more important than during this global pandemic. 

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While Age UK is supporting older people in the UK, Age International is working to reach those in high-risk areas in low-income countries where healthcare systems are already severely stretched.

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Last updated: May 22 2020

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