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The pandemic has been difficult across all age groups, but the elderly population is arguably one of the hardest hit. Not only are they vulnerable to more severe complications from the coronavirus, but they’re also the most in need of help when it comes to accessing care and services. Furthermore, the increased isolation and anxiety from COVID-19 could cause psychological and social distress in older individuals, according to a recent study conducted by the McLean Hospital. This is exactly why we need to go out of our way and ensure that we’re doing all we can to support them during these trying times.
Spending Time with Them Online
Stay-at-home orders and social distancing protocols have made it especially difficult for older individuals to keep in touch with friends and loved ones. While social isolation is proven to have negative impacts on individuals of all ages, there are disproportionately graver impacts on older adults. Gabrielle Martins Van Jaarsveld, a researcher at the Erasmus University Rotterdam’s Department of Psychology, highlights how isolation often results in loneliness — one of the major factors of depression in the elderly. This doesn’t just worsen their mental well-being, it also leads to poorer disease outcomes and higher mortality rates.
There are ways to open up communication with elderly friends and family, even if you’re physically apart. Virtual socializing has become one of the most commonplace methods for people to spend quality time together throughout lockdowns. As we said in our ‘Tech for Seniors: Stay in Touch with Easy-to-Use Gadgets’ post, there are apps and even voice command tools that can help make online communication with the elderly a smoother experience. Take time to walk them through the process, and you may very well be having regular virtual Bingo nights with them.
One great way to provide assistance to elderly loved ones is by hand-delivering groceries to them, but do this only if you’re not at high risk of contracting the virus yourself. Seniors, in particular, are asked to be extra careful when coming in contact with other people. This makes it difficult for them to go out and do basic errands like grocery shopping. Dr. Geralyn Frandsen said in an article on The Good Men Project that fresh produce can help them maintain a healthy diet, which is useful for preventing disease. Dr. Frandsen is a professor and assistant director for Maryville University’s online RN to BSN program and has plenty of experience working with patients spanning every stage of life. In line with her comments, you can help by offering to do their groceries, which also positions you to help them out in picking healthier options.
Donating to Organizations
To extend your support to an even wider demographic, you can reach out to one of the 622 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) across the country. These organizations provide essential services such as delivering meals, personal care services, health promotion and management, and social engagement to seniors in their communities. AAAs let you do the previous things we’ve talked about on a larger scale. By offering to support these organizations, you’re also helping meet the fundamental needs of seniors that you otherwise would not be able to assist.
Thanks to the internet, it’s easier to get connected with organizations that support the elderly. For one, M4A’s our current M4A Fundraising Campaign focuses on helping seniors with critical needs in Blount, Chilton, Shelby, St. Clair, and Walker Counties. These common critical needs include rent, utilities, food, medicine, and home modifications for our elderly population. Organizations like theirs rely heavily on community involvement and donations, so any contribution is most welcome.
Continued support for vulnerable communities like the elderly is more critical than ever. As we continue to grapple with the pandemic and its social and economic impact, it’s important that no one is left behind.
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By Jennifer Viviane