ANGRY pensioners have slammed regulations which have forced them to cancel outdoor bingo sessions that 'kept them sane' during lockdown.

Residents at Monkton Place, a River Clyde Homes sheltered housing complex in Port Glasgow, were advised by housing officers from River Clyde Homes to re-think their twice weekly bingo sessions after public health restrictions tightened.

The residents have been meeting in a communal garden area in the middle of the complex each Tuesday and Thursday for around an hour for bingo and a blether.

They sit in a socially distanced layout and wear face coverings, but have now had to pull the plug after receiving a letter from the housing association.

John McKeown, 77, said: "There have been about eight of us sitting out in this wee area for months ourselves playing bingo twice a week regardless of the weather.

"It's been great being able to see each other and have a bit of normality.

"So many of us haven't seen anyone other than each other for months."

Residents of the retirement community - made up of 22 bungalows - cannot understand why bingo halls and community groups can meet inside, but they're unable to continue their small outdoor gathering.

John told the Tele: "We know there are community groups who have been meeting indoors playing bingo and that bingo halls are actually open.

"It's a real shame we can't play out here when we're trying to do everything by the book.

"We are all gutted and just want a fair crack at the whip.

"We were doing the same as they were in bingo halls - keeping our distance and wearing masks.

"We've got nothing at the moment and feel a bit forgotten about."

Before the pandemic residents usually held social evenings in the hall inside their complex where they'd play games, have fish supper nights and other small events.

The hall remains closed in line with government guidelines so the pensioners used their own money to pay a gardener to tidy the outdoor seating area to allow them to make use of it.

Another resident, 69-year-old Helen Kane, has been attending the bingo sessions since the start and she says they have given her something to look forward to each week after facing her own health battles.

She said: "I'm just getting over a broken hip, I had Covid-19 and also had a stroke.

"I've not been able to go anywhere, even when restrictions eased, as I'm unsteady on my feet.

"It's been brilliant walking a few steps from my house into our seating area.

"It's great for everyone's mental health having a catch-up every week.

"I don't know what we're going to do now."

River Clyde Homes say they issued general advice to all residents reminding them of the government guidelines.

Heather Mitchell, communities manager, said: "We appreciate that the measures in place from the Scottish Government are difficult for many of our customers.

"At River Clyde Homes we are following the guidance closely and issuing letters to our customers to advise them what the current guidance is and providing advice on how to follow this.

"The most up to date guidance advises that people should not meet up with more than one household at a time with a maximum of six people at any time.

"This applies to both indoor and outdoor meetings.

"RCH provided an update to this effect as the guidance changed.

"This update was not specific to activities being undertaken in individual complexes however we asked all customers to follow the Scottish Government guidelines to ensure we all stay safe.

"We understand how difficult this period has been for our customers within sheltered housing and have provided a range of solutions to support this including an offer of tablets and activity packs.

"We would like to assure our customers that we are always here to support them to stay safe during this time."