COVID19 poses a risk not only to the health of older adults but also to their social lives
COVID-19 is changing older people’s daily routines, the care and support they receive, their ability to stay socially connected and how they are perceived. Older people are being challenged by requirements to spend more time at home, lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues, temporary cessation of employment and other activities; and anxiety and fear of illness and death – their own and others. It is therefore important that we create opportunities to foster healthy ageing during the pandemic.
Aged persons are at an increased risk of the following if diagnosed with COVID-19:
1)Increased risk of hospitalization or death
2)Increased risk for severe illnesses
Older adults are more likely to have dire outcomes from the virus. It can also be a challenge to prevent older people from being exposed to the virus because they may not be be fully independent. For example, a mother might rely on her adult daughter to come and help her with groceries or take a shower. As another example, some older people depend on help from a family member or friend with sorting mail and sending in checks to pay bills. At this point, people may not have had someone come into the home to help with those kinds of things for many weeks. What happens if one of those unpaid bills is for an essential resource or accrues a lot of interest during this time?
We also have to think about all of the ways that the pandemic affects older people's lives beyond morbidity and mortality from the virus itself. I am concerned about people experiencing social isolation as a result of not being able to have visitors and not being able to go out and do things with other people. The effects are compounded for any older person who doesn't have access to technology platforms like Skype and FaceTime or who has limited access to phone calls. Many lower-income older people have pay-per-minute phone plans, for example, and may have to choose between using their limited minutes for a phone visit with a doctor or a conversation with a grandchild. So we can't assume that a switch to virtual socialization or virtual access to resources is going to work for all older people.
Also, I think there's a fair amount of ageism—of people thinking right now, even if they aren't saying it out loud, "Well, older people are going to die anyway." But who are we to say that an 80-year-old wouldn't have otherwise lived to be 100 and done a lot of wonderful things in those 20 years? We would never think that the first 20 years of someone's life don't matter; we should recognize that the last 20 years are just as valuable.