Being social has become second nature to us and we can’t live without it. We are currently experiencing a massive social reconstruction due to COVID-19. It doesn’t matter what age; we are all affected in one way or another. The impact on the elderly has been quite significant.
By 2026 the elderly population will represent 21.2% of the Canadian population (White et al., 2013). This trend is supported by improvements in modern technology, education, living and working conditions (Lorinc, 2008). As we age the demand for social support increases due to the limited frequency of interactions especially in those living alone. Having this lack of interaction poses strain on the elderly which can lead to emotional disfunction, loneliness and can worsen into depression (Rhodes, 2016).
A study found that mental and physical health in the elderly were impacted. They reported an increase of anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality and physical inactivity during the lockdowns (Loyola et al., 2020). Elderly, being more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 were restricted with what they could do such as visiting family, grocery shopping and sometimes even walking around their neighbourhoods. Not taking part in their daily routines restricted them from living life well in retirement. What they thought their retirement might look like has been in a constant disarray since COVID-19 surfaced. Everyday there was new information in the media causing concern and confusion for this very vulnerable population.
We saw the emergence of the app Zoom which saw a 300% increase globally (SmartBear Software, 2021). It was a learning curve, but it soon became part of our daily lives. According to Stats Canada 60% of seniors (80 plus) in 2016 didn’t have internet access (Schimmele & Davidson, 2019). One could extrapolate these findings and assume these numbers are lower in 2021. Video calling is a great alternative to in person interactions because it allows for each party to form that connection without the physical aspect therefore keeping everyone safe. Those 60% without internet had to be creative to see their loved ones, such as a porch visit and/or drive-bys.
As vaccines were discovered and implemented, regulations for those vaccinated were somewhat eased. This gave us the privilege to hug our loved ones once again. Having this physical connection can help jump start the social connections that we made with our vulnerable grand and/or parents. Call your older loved ones as they need social interaction to thrive.
Lorinc, J. (2008, Aug 09). The medicare myth that refuses to die. The Globe and Mail http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/newspapers/medicare-myth-that-refuses-die/docview/382699579/se-2?accountid=13631
Rhodes. (2016, November 18). Older Adults and the Importance of Social Interaction: A.G. Rhodes. A.G. Rhodes |. https://www.agrhodes.org/blog/notable-newsworthy/older-adults-and-the-importance-of-social-interaction/#:~:text=Studies%20have%20proven%20that%20regular,mental%20health%20for%20senior%20citizens.&text=By%20contrast%2C%20social%20isolation%20typically,other%20mental%20and%20physical%20issues.
Schimmele, C., & Davidson, J. (2019, July 10). Evolving Internet Use Among Canadian Seniors. Statistics Canada. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11f0019m/11f0019m2019015-eng.htm.
Sepúlveda-Loyola, W., Rodríguez-Sánchez, I., Pérez-Rodríguez, P., Ganz, F., Torralba, R., Oliveira, D. V., & Rodríguez-Mañas, L. (2020). Impact of Social Isolation Due to COVID-19 on Health in Older People: Mental and Physical Effects and Recommendations. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 1–10. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12603-020-1469-2
SmartBear Software. (2021). App Usage & Popularity Statistics During Covid-19. Bugsnag. Retrieved from https://www.bugsnag.com/covid-19-app-usage-error-data-report.
White, J., Martin, T. & S. Bartolic. (2013). Families Across the Life Course. Toronto, ON: Pearson Canada Inc. (pp.259-291).
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