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Coronavirus: Many older adults at risk because they are unable to navigate in a digital world

Written by Diane Archer

Older adults who are not tech savvy and cannot navigate in a digital world are particularly at risk right now. If you don’t know how to access Zoom or FaceTime or buy groceries and medicines online, it’s far harder to stay healthy and safe from COVID-19. Social isolation takes a toll.

Our health care system is enormously complex as it is. Layer in a pandemic, and it is all the more difficult to stay safe and healthy. Judith Graham writes for Kaiser Health News that if you’re demented, unable to hear or see well, have a low literacy level, or simply do not know how to use a computer, you cannot rely on online resources, putting you at great risk. Yet, a large number of older adults fall into one of these categories. As many as one in three do not have the ability to have a telehealth visit with their doctors.

In addition, older adults might not have the means to own a computer or internet services. Without internet access, older adults are more likely to be lonely and isolated, to go without needed care and other essential items and services. Indeed many nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other congregate homes for older adults lack wi-fi services.

COVID-19 aside, studies show that if you have a chronic condition, you are far more likely to face social isolation than if you are healthy. You might struggle to find other people who can relate to your condition. And, you probably will end up feeling worse and becoming mentally and physically less healthy. Not surprisingly, health care costs for older adults who are socially isolated are higher than for those who are socially engaged.

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