‘The thing I miss the most? Not seeing Liverpool lift the trophy’

For Titch Fraser, 75, a resident of the Ocean View old aged home in Musgrave, Durban, the worst things about the 21-day lockdown imposed in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, are the lack of football on TV and not seeing his children and grandchildren.

The former Telkom administrator, who has lived at Ocean View for the past five years with his wife Jean, 59, is a Liverpool fan, so he’s devastated by the possibility the club might lose out on the English Premier League title, despite being 20 points to the good.

Like the rest of the 1900 residents of 13 Durban homes run by The Association for the Aged (Tafta), Fraser and the other residents of the 30-unit Ocean View home have been under lockdown since Friday morning.

“I have to change my life quite a lot. There’s a lot of things we can’t do now. The biggest upset for me is that there is no football.

“I’m a Liverpool supporter. It’s tragic that we might not win the league, after being 20 points ahead,” Fraser said in a telephone interview this week.

“There are a lot of let downs, but life has to go on. What else can you do? The whole world is going backwards at the moment. I’m sure we will come out of it in the end, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Under normal circumstances, Fraser is a groundskeeper at the Berea Bowling Club and coaches cricket twice a week at the Glenwood Preparatory School, a few kilometres away. “I’m a bit worried about the grass to be honest. It will probably be as tall as me by the time I get back there,” he said.

Since Thursday, the keen gardener has spent a lot more time “pottering around with my plants” and “staying out of Jean’s way while she cleans the house”.

“The plants here are already looking better, so I guess something good is coming from all of this,” he said.

Fraser’s visits from his son and daughter have had to stop because of the lockdown. “It’s a bit of a bind, but these are extreme circumstances,” he said.

He concedes that Covid-19, which is particularly dangerous for older people, scares him. “I’ve never experienced something as scary as this,” he said. “This is the biggest thing I have ever encountered.’’

At Tafta’s John Conradie building in South Beach, the 300 residents have adapted quickly to life under lockdown.

Most of the activities, from walks on the beach to card games and prayer meetings, have been halted to allow for physical distancing and improved hygiene. Residents now eat their meals in groups of 50 in the dining hall in shifts.

Agnes Gcabashe, 72, a floor monitor who has been living in the home which overlooks the Ushaka Marine World and the new southern promenade for three years, said residents were taking the Covid-19 threat seriously.

“I am scared of this thing. We all are. We know that Covid-19 is very dangerous for old people like us. As we speak we are all in our rooms. We watch TV to find out what is happening around the country and in the world,’’ she said.

A retired invoice clerk with Pick n Pay for 30 years, Gcabashe, who retired in 2006, moved into John Conradie after living first with her daughter, Zama, an air hostess with SAA, and later with her son, Vusumuzi, who lives in Smith Street.

She misses her weekly visits from Vusumuzi’s children, Naledi, 14, and Lethukuthula, 10. “They come to see me every weekend. They love it. They come to the first floor and sit with us.”

She added: “We make sure that we follow the rules set by the government and Tafta to keep us safe. We are only allowed to go out once a week to buy what we need. We have to sign a register so that nobody cheats.  There are signs all over about how we should conduct ourselves.’’

Gabashe said she was happy to follow the restrictions, although they did cramp her lifestyle.

“We used to walk along the beach at 5pm every day with my friends. We can’t do it now. I miss it. I can’t go to church. Normally I go every week. Now at this time of Lent I will be inside,” she said. “As I’m sitting here I’m praying, asking God to have mercy on us, more especially us old people. We have to pray.”

Tafta director Femada Shamam said 150 staff members went into lockdown with the residents to ensure they were well looked after.

While this improved security and safety of the residents, it had driven up costs, placing additional strain on Tafta’s budgets.“We are seeking funding support, but it is extremely difficult, given the pressure on funding sources right now.”

Shamam said that the two people placed in isolation after returning from abroad had not shown any symptoms nor tested positive for Covid-19.

“We’ve been in lockdown now for a week and we’re extremely proud of how well our staff have managed the various challenges they’ve had to overcome, including intensive education of some of the elders who haven’t yet realised the risks involved in leaving our buildings.”

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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