Elderly Wimmera residents are not finding lockdown easy, even though it's in place to save their lives.
In fact, for members of Horsham's Arthritis Peer Support Group, the pandemic has exacerbated their existing difficulties staying social and accessing treatment.
The group averages between eight and 14 attendees at its monthly meetings, and up to 40 people at its annual seminar. Both of these gatherings have been cancelled for 2020.
Group leader Wayne Lentsment people discussed remedies and doctors that helped them at the meetings.
"Most of our members are single and older - I'm one of the youngest and I'm over 60," he said.
"So their (social) networks are quite small, they are fairly isolated and lonely. and they are also in the high-risk category for coronavirus disease. They try not to put themselves in situations where they might contract the virus. The last meeting we had, several members decided they would not even come. "
"We have only had social meetings this year, but we have kept in touch by telephone and passed on information from our parent body in Melbourne.
Mr Lentsment has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, a chronic condition that mostly affects joint in people's hands, spines, hips and legs.
He says the symptoms are becoming more severe as he ages.
"I'm finding everyday activities like walking are getting more tiresome and fatiguing, and overall it's becoming inconvenient to have aches and pains. You're wanting to do things and not enjoying it as much."
READ MORE: PM promises to address aged care failures
In addition to the loss of social interaction, Mr Lentsment said some members were adjusting to changes in their regular appointments.
He said those with more serious conditions, such as the muscle pain-causing fibromyalgia, needed to travel to Stawell and Ballarat to visit specialists.
"That takes place on a needs basis, usually every three to six months. I think currently doctors only see those who have expressed extreme pain, but as I understand it, all regular appointments are by telehealth," he said.
They are disappointed they can't get the appointments they want. Even people who aren't in excruciating pain want to see doctors face to face, but that isn't happening. They virtually have to be crying on the phone (to get an appointment), so it's quite traumatic.
Mr Lentsment said the pandemic highlighted the need for more specialists such as rheumatologists in the Wimmera, and issue that had existed long before the pandemic hit.
"We had a small survey earlier this year, and my members noted there had not been a specialist based in the region looking at Rheumatoid Arthritis for 20 years," he said.
"COVID has put the nail in the coffin, simply because no one can get the consultations they need with the people they see on a six-monthly basis."
"We are a social group, and all our members look forward to it, even those who can't get to meetings due to the current circumstances. I can't wait for advocacy on this to start up."
FROM 2015: Arthritis Victoria runs Horsham seminar
The group's parent body, Musculoskeletal Australia, estimates 7 million people nationwide live with musculoskeletal conditions like arthritis and are a common cause of early retirement.
It is undertaking a survey of sufferers and their carers to guide its advocacy for investment in new services.
Despite the challenges, Mr Lentsment said the group's members were finding ways to stay robust during the pandemic.
"We are all of the opinion of just getting out and about," he said.
"Our oldest member is in her 90s, and she walks to meetings, when they're on, and does a lot of gardening. That is her way of keeping active and keeping her condition managed, so that's where we are at at the moment."
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to the Wimmera Mail-Times, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling the Wimmera's story. We appreciate your support of local journalism.