Mary O'Rourke“Keep doing normal things. Seeing your children or grandchildren or going out to the pharmacy or the supermarket.”

As heard on The Ray D'Arcy Show

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Offers to drop off shopping, suggestions of daily visits and soothing words of encouragement were all forthcoming from the staff taking calls at the offices of ALONE earlier today. Ray D’Arcy paid a visit to the service supporting older people, o watch them offering practical help and reassurance over the phone to elderly people and their families, contacting them about the coronavirus pandemic.

With the older people featuring in almost every public statement about the virus, Ray spoke this afternoon to writer, former minister and self-confessed elderly person, Mary O’Rourke about her views on staying happy and healthy during the pandemic. They also made time for a chat about the apparent national toilet roll shortage.

Mary O’Rourke first gave Ray her reaction to the clips he played on the show of ALONE staff taking calls:

“I loved the ALONE phone calls and the reassuring voice at the other end. I think they are doing very terrific, dramatic work, actually, because they’re talking to ordinary people about ordinary things. And well done to ALONE for that.”

Ray asked Mary how she felt about elderly people getting a mention in almost every report around the pandemic?  Mary describes her reaction when she hears the E-word in that context:

“My heart gives a thump and I say that’s me they’re talking about! Me and many, many others. And you feel you’re really, not the cause of it all, but the fault line for it all, because they begin by saying, ‘And of course most at risk are the elderly with underlying health conditions’.”

Mary says she follows what the medical experts and the official channels say, and she doesn’t dwell too much on the possibility that she might become ill. Instead, she tries to keep going more or less as she had been, while bearing in mind the advice of experts:

“Keep doing normal things. Seeing your children or grandchildren or going out to the pharmacy or the supermarket.”

The mention of shops reminds Mary to one of the big mysteries of recent days:

“What I can’t understand is, a friend rang me up to say she had been in a supermarket and they were swept clean of loo paper, toilet paper! But I don’t understand why in a time of panic or worry about getting in provisions, why they’re going for that?”

Ray then raised the level of discussion to diarrhoea, and both he and Mary agreed that that was not a danger with coronavirus, as far as they knew. Then the nostalgia kicked in for Mary, and Ray wasn’t far behind:

“You can always use makeshift if you were out of some kind of… there’s always newspapers.”

Ray appealed to the expertise of the listeners in solving this conundrum. Stay tuned.

You can hear more about the work of ALONE and Mary O’Rouke’s full interview with Ray D’Arcy here.

If you would like to contact ALONE yourself, you can call their national phone line on 0818 222 024 or email ALONE at

Ruth Kennedy

© The Listener 2020

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