TRT World speaks with four Istanbulites whose age puts them at risk of falling fatally ill from coronavirus. They say they are trying their best to stay in and not worry, but it’s not that simple.
“Even my six-year-old granddaughter knows about the coronavirus,” Nilufer Santemiz says. “They taught her at kindergarten. She says, ‘no kissing grandma until corona is over.’”
Santemiz, 68, lives in 4. Levent in Istanbul with her husband and daughter. She is retired, but still volunteers at Bogazici University, helping the rector as an administrative coordinator.
Santemiz also takes public education classes to learn amigurumi, the Japanese art of crocheting dolls and animals.
“I told both the university and the public education centre that I wouldn’t be attending anymore,” she says. “As soon as the health minister made the first announcement.”
She adds: “I went to the university for the last time on March 12, and haven’t been since. I don’t go out of the house, and do my shopping online.”
She is very happy with the delivery companies: “They ring your bell with their gloved hands, step back, drop off your groceries,” she says. “I wash my hands and use kolonya -– Turkish eau de cologne –– to sanitise my hands after I bring in the groceries.”
Santemiz also praises the Turkish health ministry, saying they have been handling the crisis very well and taking proper precautions.
Santemiz’s husband and daughter work in the private sector, and they still go to work, she says. Santemiz also confesses that her family went out for Sunday breakfast on March 15 with another couple they’ve known for 50 years.
“The restaurant was quite deserted, and we made sure to eat cooked food,” she adds. “I don’t take any supplements, vitamins and whatnot,” she muses. “If we’re going to die, we’ll die,” she laughs good-naturedly.
Ruchan and Amil Kunt, 86 and 90 respectively, say their lives have been somewhat disrupted by the coronavirus. Amil, a retired manager, says the last time he left the house was two days ago, to get a dressing changed on his finger at the hospital.
He tells TRT World that he has been trying to stay indoors reading or watching the news on TV while his wife does the shopping.
Ruchan Kunt says she has no option but to leave the apartment every once in a while. She says she was at the bank yesterday morning, and stopped by the supermarket, which was empty but for the cashiers and one lone shopper. On her return home, she thoroughly washed her hands.
Ruchan says she will start using home deliveries from the market, but she may have to step out to take her husband to the health centre to remove the stitches from his finger. She says she washes her hands regularly and avoids contact with people when she ventures outside.
As for Nigar Alemdar (related to the writer), being cooped up in her home is not her style at all. An active 73-year-old, she says the coronavirus has affected her quite a bit as a freelance conference interpreter.
She says she has lost work due to cancellations and has had to turn down what little work that remained because she was wary of sharing a small booth with a colleague which would violate social distancing guidelines. “That means loss of income,” she says.
“My lifestyle has changed a lot,” Alemdar tells TRT World. “I usually walk at least three kilometres a day to stay healthy. I can’t do that now.”
She adds: “I like seeing people and I’m a member of several NGOs; we can’t hold meetings now so I can’t see my colleagues.”
Alemdar says she watches the international news channels to keep herself updated on what’s going on around the world.
“I’m amazed at one thing –– that the US president holds a press conference and talks about social distancing while he has 14 people behind him,” she observes.