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Indoors: experiences of older people during lockdown

Peggy (95), was born in Bow and is a Londoner ‘born and bred’: 'I go to two lunch clubs and I help out at one of them. I miss that, I miss getting up and having a purpose. You get up now and (think) ‘what should I do? I’d better bake, or I’d better…’ So nothing is pressing, you’re just going along, you’re not doing what you should be doing because it’s holiday isn’t it. I’m not a shopper, except for food and that. I don’t spend money on myself. I don’t have it, I just don’t have it, but I do like to go on the bus or on the train. Not so much on the train because I can’t walk that well. I just miss people, but I’m very fortunate having my neighbours who are very kind and always there for me, so that’s good.'

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Isolation: doing and engaging

Rene (87), from Poplar, has wonderful memories of playing as a child at Limehouse Pier: 'You do miss seeing people, don’t you? And if you noticed, I’m lucky because my balcony looks out onto Canary Wharf, the road, people walk through. I am lucky but a few of the old girls I know they’re shut on about the 17th floor, no balcony, nothing - like being in a box and I think one of them, she does go out, she said ‘I’ve got to, I walk over to Asda… and I come back, at least I’ve had that break.’ So really, in one way, I am lucky what I’ve got, I have got an outlet, a lot of the elderly haven’t got that outlet. We lived through the war but at least we could go out and you took a chance, whether you come back or not.' Rene (87), from Poplar, has wonderful memories of playing as a child at Limehouse Pier: 'You do miss seeing people, don’t you? And if you noticed, I’m lucky because my balcony looks out onto Canary Wharf, the road, people walk through. I am lucky but a few of the old girls I know they’re shut on about the 17th floor, no balcony, nothing - like being in a box and I think one of them, she does go out, she said ‘I’ve got to, I walk over to Asda… and I come back, at least I’ve had that break.’ So really, in one way, I am lucky what I’ve got, I have got an outlet, a lot of the elderly haven’t got that outlet. We lived through the war but at least we could go out and you took a chance, whether you come back or not.'

Connectedness: relationships and community

Isabel owns a local Spanish restaurant with her son Eduardo, which she started in 1982. She has lived in London since the 1960s: 'I have been spending a lot of time keeping my mind active. Facebook and WhatsApp keep me connected to friends and family who are far away and it’s always nice keeping in touch and sharing our experiences. I like to crochet and have made lots of things from toys for my grandchildren to slippers as well as lots of face masks that I have given to people. My son pops by regularly, bringing things I need, and I chat to him from the window or at a distance by the street door. This is an amazing street and there is always a friendly face to chat to and they ask how you are, we always try to look out for each other, although it’s a little sad to see the shops all closed.' Isabel owns a local Spanish restaurant with her son Eduardo, which she started in 1982. She has lived in London since the 1960s: 'I have been spending a lot of time keeping my mind active. Facebook and WhatsApp keep me connected to friends and family who are far away and it’s always nice keeping in touch and sharing our experiences. I like to crochet and have made lots of things from toys for my grandchildren to slippers as well as lots of face masks that I have given to people. My son pops by regularly, bringing things I need, and I chat to him from the window or at a distance by the street door. This is an amazing street and there is always a friendly face to chat to and they ask how you are, we always try to look out for each other, although it’s a little sad to see the shops all closed.'

Coping: keeping safe and making the most of life

Rachel (42) and David (77) have been married for 11 years and live in Limehouse. David who lives with Levy Body Dementia, benefits from accessible creative activities such as dancing, theatre, and drawing: 'Since the lockdown, all our groups have transferred online, and we've found more kindred spirits and support than ever before. Of course, it's been tough in many ways given all the limitations and fear for David, who is deemed highly vulnerable. He forgets why he has to wash his hands, can't go to the pool anymore or see people he used to see. All the practical help I had struggled to organise over the years to provide me with some respite and continue some freelancing work, has stopped. Having to rebuild a new routine has been tough on both of us, but as always we prefer to focus on the bright side. We still have each other and in that alone we are lucky. Many people in similar situations are separated because one is 'locked up' in care home with all the fear and worries that ensue.' Rachel (42) and David (77) have been married for 11 years and live in Limehouse. David who lives with Levy Body Dementia, benefits from accessible creative activities such as dancing, theatre, and drawing: 'Since the lockdown, all our groups have transferred online, and we've found more kindred spirits and support than ever before. Of course, it's been tough in many ways given all the limitations and fear for David, who is deemed highly vulnerable. He forgets why he has to wash his hands, can't go to the pool anymore or see people he used to see. All the practical help I had struggled to organise over the years to provide me with some respite and continue some freelancing work, has stopped. Having to rebuild a new routine has been tough on both of us, but as always we prefer to focus on the bright side. We still have each other and in that alone we are lucky. Many people in similar situations are separated because one is 'locked up' in care home with all the fear and worries that ensue.'

Memories: reflections and comparisons

Joe (96) served in the British Army during the Second World War. He saw active service in Italy, including the Battle of Monte Cassino: 'It was an experience, something to look back on. It wasn’t a great experience, but still. You see the other side of life. I was there for just over three years in Italy. It was interesting times. It was dangerous at times. I was a unit armourer. We used to make sure the weapons were working correctly - if they needed repairing, we’d do that. We was up there in the Battle of Cassino when they bombed the monastery. We was outside there. It was an experience. But I think this lockdown seems to be worse. Harder, maybe, because of my age. Harder than when I was in the army during that time, that period. It was scary at the time but we was young. I was only 20.' Joe (96) served in the British Army during the Second World War. He saw active service in Italy, including the Battle of Monte Cassino: 'It was an experience, something to look back on. It wasn’t a great experience, but still. You see the other side of life. I was there for just over three years in Italy. It was interesting times. It was dangerous at times. I was a unit armourer. We used to make sure the weapons were working correctly - if they needed repairing, we’d do that. We was up there in the Battle of Cassino when they bombed the monastery. We was outside there. It was an experience. But I think this lockdown seems to be worse. Harder, maybe, because of my age. Harder than when I was in the army during that time, that period. It was scary at the time but we was young. I was only 20.'

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The exhibition was co-curated by: Adam IsfendiyarFederica LuciveroMikey DunnRoderick BaileyMilly FarrellMira Schneiders, and Anne Osterrieder.