The COVID-19 pandemic has put us all under tremendous stress. Social isolation, loneliness, fear of getting sick, an uncertain economy … the list goes on. According to a mid-July Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, 53% of adults in the United States reported negative mental health effects due to concern and anxiety about the novel coronavirus.
One demographic at especially high risk of mental health issues is older adults, due to their higher probability of contracting the disease, known mental and physical health consequences of isolating, and existing co-morbidities. “The share of older adults (ages 65 and up) reporting negative mental health impacts has increased since March,” according to KFF. Continue reading
Photo: Amanda Mills/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Long before the novel coronavirus ever surfaced, millions of older adults struggled with food insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic has further compounded their ability to obtain healthy food or eat balanced, nutritious meals. One reason: older adults who rely on senior centers for a daily hot meal and important socialization find themselves shut in, unable to access important federal or state nutrition programs, fearful of trips to the supermarket, or without adequate financial and other means to do so.
While food banks and home meal delivery volunteers are trying to pick up some of the slack, some vulnerable older adults find themselves standing in long lines to pick up groceries or a sandwich. Continue reading
Covering mental health issues among older adults first means understanding the differences between issues of social isolation, loneliness, depression, and the effect of cognitive decline. Each issue may affect a person or several may be occurring simultaneously. Don’t interchange the terms however, because they’re not the same condition.
At last week’s Journalism Workshop on Aging and Health in Los Angeles, panelists stressed the importance of getting it right. You can be alone, but not lonely, or socially isolated. You can be socially isolated but not lonely. You can be either, or both. Continue reading
We know social isolation and loneliness are detrimental to health, particularly among the older adult population. It’s a problem that seems to be getting worse, according to this recent report from Pew Research.
It found that, on average, U.S. adults over age 60 spend more than half of their waking hours alone and for those who live by themselves, that’s as much as 10 hours a day, compared with about half that rate for people in their 40s and 50s. Continue reading
Social isolation and loneliness are associated with increased mortality in older adults. Social isolation also has been linked to other adverse health effects, including dementia, increased risk for hospital readmission and increased risk of falls. However, research consistently shows that feeling connected and involved benefits both mental and physical health.
Social isolation and loneliness are not quite the same things, although the terms sometimes are used interchangeably. Continue reading
The future of services for our aging population will be shaped by the future of technology.
A small example of this important trend appeared last week in a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article by Jane Applegate. She wrote about a new line of walking shoes outfitted with GPS devices that can help track older people with dementia:
“This December, Aetrex (Worldwide, a specialty shoe manufacturer based in Teaneck, N.J.) and GTX (based in Los Angeles) launched the Aetrex Navistar GPS Footwear System, a $300 walking shoe with GTX’s GPS transmitter and receiver embedded in the right heel. Caregivers go online to create a virtual fence – a zone around the person’s residence – and pay Aetrex about $39 a month to receive alerts when the wearer leaves the area. If Grandma does leave, her location will be visible as long as where she goes has cellular coverage …”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, 60 percent of the 5.4 million Americans dealing with the debilitating disease tend to run away or wander during its last stages. The market for technology designed to assist seniors is expected to reach $20 billion by 2020, according to Laurie Orlov, founder of research firm Aging in Place Technology Watch.”
Orlov’s website is a good resource for reporters looking for trends and insight. Not surprisingly, products and services that help people age in place, which The Miami Herald examined in a recent article, are a major focus.
This business segment spans everything from electronic pill boxes to in-home sensors that track an older person’s movements around the house and send an alert if something seems suspicious. See this New York Times article from 2009 (eons ago in technology time!) for more perspective on the trend. Continue reading