As I write this column Western Australia is in lockdown – with a positive outlook for the removal of restrictions on February 14.

With very little notice we were asked to isolate with limited contact or activity outside our homes. On the whole, it appears that the majority of us were able to make this rapid adjustment, but we’d like to hear from you if this caused you significant distress and why. You can either call us, leave a comment on our Facebook or website or send us an email. Your feedback is important so that we can identify any gaps and put in place some measures to support seniors in the event of another outbreak, please see the attached link for the current restrictions.

The State Government, through Department of Communities and the Mental Health Commission, acted swiftly to distribute over a million face masks within a couple of days. COTA (WA) will ensure these are available to our program participants through mallwalking, Strength for Life and Mentoring 2 Work.  We will also keep a stock of them on hand for those who have not been able to find any. Please note that the wearing of facemasks is mandatory until 14 February so you must wear one when leaving your home.

In line with the restrictions, COTA (WA) has temporarily suspended its aged care information sessions as well as the mallwalking and Strength for Life programs, and we look forward to resuming these in the next few weeks. We will keep you up to date through messages on our Facebook and website.

The resilience of some Western Australians has certainly been tested this month with the outbreak of the catastrophic bushfires that wiped out 81 homes – with fortunately no loss of life. One of the COTA (WA) team was forced to evacuate for a few days during the critical period and while her home was not destroyed, the smoke damage will take some time to eradicate. If you’ve been affected by the bushfires and require assistance you will find a list of support services on the Disaster Assist website.

Another issue facing many Western Australians is the lack of affordable housing. To support the call for more affordable housing options COTA (WA) has joined the Unlock Housing campaign with Shelter WA in the lead up to the state election. This is in further support of our findings of growing housing insecurity for seniors, particularly older single women, as well as the opportunity to understand what reimagining what a home could look like for those who usually miss out.

With the upcoming State election on March 13, the WA Electoral Commission is encouraging people to vote early to avoid crowds and to manage social distancing. At most early voting locations voting will be available for a three-week period starting on 24 February and ending at 6:00pm on Friday 12 March 2021. Early voting centres will mostly be open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays). Early voting centres will also be open on Saturday 6 March 2021.  If you are not able to get to a polling booth there are options for either postal voting or mobile polling. For more information on voting in the State election you can visit the Elections WA early vote page, and we will keep you updated with new information as its released.

Finally, I encourage you to check in with your family members and neighbours. A small gesture like this will brighten someone’s day immeasurably. I hope you enjoy this edition of COTA Connections and as always, stay safe.

Christine Allen, CEO