Josephine Holder sang with a local choir and enjoyed her visits from her daughter - then Covid changed everything.

"It was awful", she said.

"Because of the risks I did not see many people. My daughter lives in London and I didn't get to see her for 18 months. But she was at least able to order my food and groceries for me.

"The loneliness was difficult. And then you would get nervous going out, afraid of catching Covid.

"I used to be part of the Singleton Singers choir, and I enjoyed that, but of course everything had to stop. Even when they were able to start up again, I didn't want to go because of my age", added the 83-year-old. You can read more stories about Swansea here.

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Josephine was speaking in better times at an event organised by charity Action for Elders, with Swansea Council's partnership involvement team, which saw more than 200 people invited to the city's Brangwyn Hall for an afternoon of festive food and entertainment.

She is a resident of Morgan Court, a retirement housing block in Oystermouth Road which is home to 72 flats for people aged 60 and above. In normal times it would host regular social activities in some of its communal areas, until the pandemic came along.

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Betty Newcombe, aged 87, is another Morgan Court resident. She described how things changed: "Some residents would check you were ok, but we were very conscious of what was going on. We all wore masks and abided by the rules, but we had to rely on friends and family.

"And family weren't allowed to come in. I watched a lot of Netflix. We're still nervous about things, but the afternoon tea began again a month ago, although it is restricted to ten at the moment".

Guests at the Action For Elders Christmas party at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall

Carol Davies, aged 83, another resident, added: "I lost my husband to motor neurone disease 13 years ago, so I am on my own. My sister lives in Ammanford but she couldn't come to see me. I only have the house phone, so we would keep in touch on that".

With lockdown restrictions all three friends were able to take part in the party at the Brangwyn. Such an event has not been possible for 18 months, so the 'normality' of it was clearly welcome.

Fun Wong is manager of Swan Gardens, another housing retirement block in St Helen's Road, for the Chinese community.

Fun Wong, manager of Swan Gardens retirement complex in Swansea for Chinese community

"It was very difficult for residents," she said.

"We usually have three staff doing 35 hours work for them. But when lockdown began we had just one doing eight hours a week. It meant everyone wanted their help.

"Many residents don't speak English, so staff will provide translation services, and help with essential services like benefits or bills or banking. We would just have letters piling up requesting help, and they would be getting anxious because we couldn't help them as we had before. We provided some services by phone, but face to face is much better. They are so pleased things have been opening up".

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It was difficult too for members of Sadie's Butterflies.

Based in the Swansea Valley, the group supports the trans community. And while they too shared the loneliness and isolation felt by the rest of the country, for those who had yet to come out, it was an extra challenge.

Members and supporters of Sadie's Butterlflies, including Samantha Jones, front right, and Donna Markie immediately behind

Donna Markie from Pontyates, aged 64, said: "We were worried about a lot of our members. Not a lot of them are out and we were concerned about how they were coping. We put information on our web page and I've no doubt it was a massive impact on our group.

"They felt cut off and we gave them a chance to socialise. A lot of our members had no outlet and I think they really suffered. There were 375 hate crimes in the UK in the trans community, and it is worse this year. 500,000 people identify as transgender.

"My partner is transgender and a mental health support worker. He went out to work every day, and I was worried about him getting Covid, as well as making sure our daughter was safe and secure. We had to do a lot of ordering online".

Samantha Jones is an electrician at Port Talbot steelworks, and also a member of Sadie's Butterflies.

She said: "I found the isolation difficult at first. I live alone but I had Donna on the phone, but it was hard not going out to socialise. I have neighbours around me but most kept themselves to themselves. But working in the steelworks meant I was an essential worker and could get out and get food for myself".

Two groups which have been playing a crucial role are Cymru Older People's Alliance (COPA) and Fifty Plus.

Sheila Betts of Fifty Plus said: "It has been difficult for everyone, but in most places people rallied around. There was a woman in my street who put a note through my door who was doing the shopping and asking if there was anything I wanted her to get. But early on there were no buses, and that was difficult for those who relied on them".

The 80-year-old is also a member of the Parochial Church Council, based at St Hilary's Church in Killay.

"We had services on Zoom, so there was some contact going on. But of course not everyone is online. Not everyone has family or is part of a church which is why Fifty Plus is looking to increase its membership.

"Action For Elders has been marvellous with all sorts of things but they can't cover everyone".

Sheila Betts, left, and Hazel Maguire, right, with a friend

Hazel Maguire, from Dunvant, is a COPA trustee.

"Unfortunately, the digital explosion hasn't reached everywhere. Zoom is wonderful if you can use it but those who are excluded, and if you are, with the decline of the High Street and banks closing, that has been very challenging for some people.

"And transport has been a huge problem for people stuck at home".

The mental health implications of lockdown are still being seen, according to mental health worker Mike Lancey, of Killay.

Mental health worker Mike Lancey said the consequences of the Covid lockdown were likely to be long-lasting

"Things have not been the same for some time. I used to see 15-20 people a week, and initially lockdown would mean I would have to phone people and it isn't the same.

"A lot of my patients live on their own and have not been able to go anywhere. We have a mental health club at Pant Gwyn in Sketty, but we have not been able to open since Covid started.

"Most of the people I see have been struggling with a sense of loneliness and isolation. We are inundated in work, and of course we struggle because we have a lot of sickness because of Covid.

"We are able to go and see people now, and it is better than just a phone call. A phone call is ok but seeing and talking to people is much better. Being able to come out to events like this makes a huge difference. But it's going to take a long time for things to improve".

An Action For Elders spokesman added: "Last year was a very tough one for members of Swansea’s older community, many of whom suffered from anxiety and loneliness.

"Our festive party is a celebration of coming out of lockdown safely; of getting back in touch with loved ones and relatives they hadn’t seen for a while due to pandemic restrictions. We believe putting people together and building strong bonds at the heart of the community can really help to rebuild lives.

"This is a big event with an opportunity to enjoy social interaction and meet new friends."

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