For retirees Hine and Tamati Te Apatu of Hamilton the first Covid-19 lockdown was both terrifying and a blessing.
"I'm a retired registered nurse," says Hine (83). "I'm aware of illness and disease and how to keep safe, but this (coronavirus) was entirely different. I didn't know how to deal with it and you have no idea what it was like not being able to get out and see people. I've never been so terrified.
"But on the other hand the lockdown was a blessing because staying at home was the only way I could feel safe; I wanted to live, not die."
Hine and husband Tamati (87) are well aware of their vulnerability - not just because of their age. Both suffer from respiratory problems: "Our lungs are not as good as they should be and I told Tamati we are prime candidates to get Covid-19 and if we did we might not survive."
They also have physical difficulties. Hine, forced to get around with the aid of two walking sticks, has already had her right knee replaced and is awaiting an operation on the other while Tamati is in line for a hip replacement. Both procedures, delayed after elective surgeries were postponed in the wake of the pandemic, are the source of even more frustration for the couple.
During the second lockdown Hine says they were able to live a near normal life: "The first lockdown was new to us, but we were able to be more relaxed the second time because we had a better idea of what to do and were not as fearful.
"I managed to get out and do some supermarket shopping, but I was still very cautious and aware of the rules," she says. "I wore a mask which was not difficult for me as being a nurse I wore masks a lot anyway."
Hine says family and friends kept in touch with her and Tamati during the second lockdown mostly by telephone and email. "We're well looked after but talking on the phone is not the same as being with people."
But they are cheerfully putting all this to one side and are looking forward to going back to their normal busy lives. This is especially true of Hine (full name Hineraumoa) who has been 'on-the-go' all her life and is not letting the pandemic or a dodgy knee stop her now.
Their story comes as the Te Hiringa Hauora/Health Promotion Agency is working with a range of partners to encourage all New Zealanders - but especially those in older age-groups - to get back to what kept them busy before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
HPA Manager Virginia MacEwan says it's good that Hine and Tamati are feeling better about facing the pandemic , as HPA had heard some older people are still fearful about leaving their house – worried about news stories on what is happening at the border and in Australia.
But MacEwan wants seniors to get back in contact with their friends and the activities they were doing safely before the lockdown, when the controls are lifted.
For example, Hine made herself as busy as ever between the two lockdowns. Born in Wairoa in northern Hawkes Bay, she was brought up in Dannevirke where she first undertook nursing training at the town's hospital. From this beginning (she is of Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu, Ngā Puhi and Rangitāne descent) she has spent a lifetime caring and looking out for others.
For many years she worked as a caregiver in private hospitals before graduating with a nursing degree. She was a founder member of Te Rūnanga o Aotearoa NZNO (New Zealand Nurses Organisation), a group which represents Māori health professionals and, until her retirement, she lectured in kawa whakaruruhau (cultural safety) at the Waikato Institute of Technology in Hamilton.
These days she keeps a motherly eye on fellow Ngāti Kahungunu living in the city. She helped arrange food vouchers for the Kaumātua and Kuia of Ngāti Kahungunu ki Kirikiriroa, fundraises for a political party by selling craft items from a stall at a local market and finds time to attend a korowai (Māori cloak) weaving class at Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust.
She's making the korowai to mark son Thomas' graduation (he's studying a Master's in psychology at Massey University in Albany with the aim of becoming a clinical psychologist). It is the second she has made - the first she presented to her other son Logan who sadly passed away three years ago following a battle with cancer.
"I didn't realise how much I'd enjoy making a korowai," she says. "It's been a challenge, but I like it because I get to meet and socialise with other people. I'm keen to try flax basket weaving next."
Neither is Tamati one to be idle. A New Zealand Navy and Army veteran, he served in a signals unit in Malaya in a 1950s conflict which broke out following an attempt by the Malayan Communist Party to overthrow British colonial rule. He loves to get along to the RSA, something Hine says he missed during the lockdown.
He is also learning to play the ukulele at weekly classes held at Rauawaawa, plays tennis and is a keen casual golfer: "Well," chuckles Hine, "he tries to play golf."
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