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Coronavirus: Minimizing the health risks of isolation

Written by Diane Archer

Paula Span reports for The New York Times on efforts to minimize the risks of isolation for older adults during this coronavirus pandemic. It’s not normal for most people to spend so much time apart from other people. For older adults, in particular, social isolation can take a huge toll.

As the National Academies of Sciences has reported, social isolation and loneliness are large public health risks, promoting heart disease, stroke and dementia and other poor health outcomes.The National Academies found that about one in three older adults experienced social isolation before the novel coronavirus pandemic. A study published in JAMA in 2012 found that more than four in ten older adults experienced loneliness. Since the pandemic, it’s likely that a far higher proportion of older people are experiencing social isolation and loneliness.

It’s important to stay active however makes you happy, while keeping safe. Some older adults living at home are cooking for the first time in decades. And, many older adults who are getting Meals on Wheels benefit from a regular relationship with the person delivering the food, from a distance.

Senior centers, YMCA’s and other organizations serving older populations are offering stay-at-home activities for their older adult members. Among other things, staff reach out to older members by phone on a regular basis. For members who use the computer, some offer concerts and lectures and classes on Zoom, as well as group conference calls.

Two PACE programs–programs that provide all-inclusive care for the elderly–are loaning tablets to their members so that they can do email and video chats.

Unfortunately, according to Pew Research, one-third of older adults are not able to use computer technology on their own. Many also do not have internet access.

Whatever you do, move around as much as possible during the day. Don’t sit for too long if you can avoid it. Keep active. If you have access to stairs, climb them. Physical activity benefits your mind and body.

Here’s more from Just Care:

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