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When the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK and the country went into lockdown, it was difficult to foresee what the lasting effects would be on older people. On the Isle of Wight, as restrictions were lifted, older residents faced the daunting prospect of leaving their homes for the first time in months and under new restrictions.

Out and About Cards

Concerns began to be raised about how older residents would approach going out after the long period of shielding and how social distancing measures would be interpreted. Regardless of the longing to return to normal life, the reality was one of anxiety and worry.

The Age Friendly Island’s Older Person Steering Group set up an Environment Task and Finish Group to meet, discuss and provide feedback for how public spaces can be adapted to help with social distancing and ensure Age Friendly principles are met.

Being unable to read the COVID signage if sight was an issue, coupled with growing anxiety over changes to the outdoor environment led to the idea of creating a visible card, that could be worn as a badge, which would let other people know that the card wearer was having difficulties with the new social distancing measures.

Out and About
How the cards were developed

In partnership with the Isle of Wight Council’s marketing and graphic design team, a draft of the Out and About Cards was produced, taking into consideration the government’s COVID branding. In consultation with the Age Friendly Older Persons Steering Group and Public Forums, and the Environmental Task and Finish Group, the cards were finalised and a pilot scheme was agreed.

The wording and designs for the cards is aimed at addressing the issues for:

  • those who find social distancing challenging, so they may have a visual impairment or have difficulty in understanding social distancing instructions
  • are exempt from wearing a face covering under the government guidance
  • find the use of face coverings by other people challenging as they make communication difficult for those who rely on lip reading and facial expressions

The Out and About Cards display the following messages:

  • Please be patient Social distancing is challenging for me
  • Please be patient I am exempt form wearing a face covering
  • Please be patient Your use of face coverings is challenging for me
  • Please be patient I need time and space

The Out & About Cards were produced and are distributed by Age Friendly Island partner organisations and businesses. They can also be downloaded from the Isle of Wight Council’s website and printed off at home. In future, they will also be available at libraries across the Island.

Posters introducing the cards were also produced for display in Island businesses to help members of the public recognise and understand the purpose of the cards when encountering them.

Elenid Matthews, a member of both the Age Friendly Public Forums and Older Person’s Steering Group has found the cards extremely useful and said, ‘I wear my Out and About Card in Morrisons, Boots and at consultant’s appointments.’

The Out and About Cards have helped many older residents build confidence to get back out into the community and remind others to be patient, as some people may be struggling with the new rules. Following the success of the pilot scheme a further 2,000 cards were produced, bringing the total number of cards available to residents to 2,500.

If you or someone you know would benefit from using these cards, please contact Age UK Isle of Wight on (01983) 525282 or for more information.

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Published 14/12/2020