COVID-19 Pandemic's Impact on the Elderly

Older citizens are a third demographic group that has been disproportionately affected by policy responses to COVID-19. 

We already stated in the article that older people are more likely to contract COVID-19 and die from it than children and younger adults. Large outbreaks have occurred in aged care homes, with elevated fatality rates. 

When we consider the consequences of some of the policy reactions to the pandemic, though, we see that older populations are more vulnerable. 

For example, figures suggest that unemployment rates for jobs aged and older have been higher than in recent recessions. 

Furthermore, many elderly adults have had their retirement plans disrupted, and they will not have the same chances to continue travel until the pandemic has passed. 

One recent retiree in the United States expressed his dissatisfaction with the pandemic's timing: These were the years that we had set aside between, you know, and maybe the early s, that we were trying to do all of the stuff that we had put off since we were raising a family because we were nearing the end of our most fruitful years of our careers. 

Since our jobs were hard and our careers were demanding, we didn't enjoy long breaks or do a lot of stuff. We mentioned that we will retire at a younger age than any others... We had a couple of nice years where we [travelled] across Europe, Australia, and most of the United States, and now it's all gone. Around the same time, we're getting older, and these are the years we'll never get back. When you're, it's not that you can fly [in the same way]. 

The social alienation caused by interventions like stay-at-home directives and social distancing laws, on the other hand, is a far bigger issue. 

These interventions have also discouraged older people from participating in social encounters that are important to their well-being, such as those with their relatives and family, as well as those that take place in shops, within neighborhood groups, in places of worship, and during other daily activities. 

For example, we spoke with an Italian woman who explained the precautions she took during the first phase of the pandemic: ‘[t]o try to protect the health of my elderly mother, who lives one floor above me, I only met with her for a few minutes [every day] while wearing a mask for two months.' Isolation like this can lead to or intensify loneliness, despair, and, in the case of older adults with dementia, more cognitive loss. 

Owing to major restrictions on the number, timing, and modalities of visits by friends and family, older adults in long-term care (LTC) facilities have been especially affected. 

Visitors are often expected to undergo testing prior to visiting LTC facilities, and the visits are often brief and performed outside. All involved must keep a safe distance and wear masks and other safety gear. This has an unavoidable effect on the meeting's efficiency. 

In the Canadian context, health researchers and practitioners note that [t]he impracticalities of such visits are obvious: spouses of residents are often older adults who face mobility challenges getting tested, residents have hearing and vision loss, making communicating during a physically distanced visit outside challenging, and masking visitor faces is not helpful or advisable. 

Due to COVID-19 outbreaks, some inhabitants have been socially segregated for months, spending every day and every meal alone in their apartments, kept captive by ill-conceived policies... 

These initiatives are out of step with residents' interests and cause emotional distress. This means that some of the main measures put in place by policymakers in reaction to COVID-19 have placed undue pressures on the elderly. 

This risks undermining their public legitimacy and necessitates lawmakers' awareness of the policies' disparate social effects, particularly given the precarious role several older people already occupy. There are, however, ways to mitigate the effect of such measures on the elderly. 

For example, in long-term care facilities, this could include [refocusing] care on the occupant and reintroducing person-centered care into countermeasures... 

This includes embracing and campaigning for creativity, user-friendly emerging tools that foster interactions with loved ones, and using [nurses'] intimate partnerships with residents to lobby for more person-centered policies. 

Online services have also been used in ways that aren't exclusive to LTC services. 

For example, in addition to Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, older people in the United Kingdom have access to the Next-door App, which allows neighbors to communicate and connect socially.

 Older citizens have also used internet outlets to attend worship events, play online board games, and attend virtual music concerts. 

Some also suggested alternative means of care, such as letters, notes, and parcels, telephone calls, and cognitive behavior training, since many elderly adults do not have high levels of IT literacy. 

Justifiable civility should not need governments to always reject COVID-19 policy responses simply because they might have a disproportionate impact on older citizens. 

After all, these policies are needed to slow the spread of the virus and save lives. 

Policymakers must, in the very least, recognize the disparities in outcomes and, where possible, make a sincere attempt to either change their strategies or introduce and encourage interventions to reduce the disparities. 

This may be achieved directly, such as supplying older people with the financial and technical means to access internet services from the comfort of their own homes, or indirectly, such as coordinating public awareness programs urging residents to follow any of the above supportive behaviors in their everyday encounters with older people.

You may also want to read more analysis about the COVID-19 Pandemic here.