There are likely long-term impacts on gatherings, travel, eating, medicine and home life because of the pandemic — but, of course, this is a personal perspective based on how you view the pandemic. However, for many seniors, the pandemic will have changed how they receive health care, for example. After the pandemic status has died down in the years to come, it is still going to be tough for seniors because of the risk of contracting the virus.
Older adults are uniquely vulnerable because their immune systems tend to deteriorate with age, making it much harder for them to battle COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eight out of 10 COVID-19 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults 65 years old and older. However, despite everything happening with the pandemic and a long road ahead, seniors weathered this far better than younger demographics.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, evidence suggests that, counter to expectation, older adults as a group may be more resilient to the anxiety, depression and stress-related mental health disorders characteristic of younger populations during the initial phase of the pandemic. However, like other age groups, there was a concern for a mental health crisis because of isolation and the risk of contracting the virus.
Approximately one year into the pandemic, multiple studies have indicated that older adults may be less negatively affected by mental health outcomes than other age groups. Overall, the findings were similar to other reports received from high-income countries. There is hope for seniors because of the vaccine, but more importantly, their overall reliance and ability to face significant obstacles.
How seniors managed the loneliness and anxiety during the pandemic
Family and friends of seniors across the nation played a significant role in helping seniors in long-term care, nursing homes and assisted living to stay connected, even if it was little things like asking about their appetites, sleep patterns and moods to find red flags. Families found creative ways to connect while still being physically apart, and people began to show extraordinary acts of kindness.
Seniors across the United States have been experiencing COVID-19 in several ways, depending on their living arrangements, finances and health. However, every senior has experienced more isolation than usual, resulting in more loneliness and anxiety. However, many of these individuals have lived through economic depression, wars and experienced things the younger generation has yet to experience.
Seniors across the nation managed the loneliness by staying connected and found support through family and friends. Also, all populations have been leaning on technology more than ever as tools for socializing with friends and family. All of this has helped relieve some of the burdens and will likely continue well into the new year as older Americans become vaccinated.
What steps can seniors take to manage feelings of loneliness and anxiety?
During the pandemic, seniors across the nation faced significant change and uncertainty. Countless seniors were isolated in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and experts warned of mental health problems with loneliness and anxiety, as noted by ECDOL.org. However, as mentioned above, they did fare better than most younger demographics. Some of the indicators families should look for include the following:
Loss of interest in normal activities.
Changes in appetite.
Changing emotions and feeling sad, unhappy or empty.
Difficulty sleeping, insomnia or sleeping too much.
Difficulty concentrating and irrational reactions.
Loneliness and isolation have been significant barriers during the pandemic, but seniors can continue to take steps into 2021. For example:
Have hobbies and learn something new.
Take advantage of technology, learn new technology, and become familiar with the accessories and other resources with technology.
Adopt a pet if your living accommodations allow for it.
Maintain contact with family and friends and accept their continued support.
Despite what has occurred in 2020, there is light at the end of the tunnel and things will get better because this is not permanent. Regardless of what is said on the media and what politicians are saying, this will not last forever, and the new normal or social distancing will stop being a thing in 2021.