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Seniors Face Increased Risk Of Loneliness Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Apr 20, 2020

By: Megan Coleman | CNY Central

OSWEGO, N.Y. — As we continue to social distance, we might not be seeing our family and friends as much as we want to. For our older family members, that can be especially hard.

An estimated 43-percent of adults age 60 and older in the U.S. report feeling lonely. That was before the coronavirus pandemic hit, a crisis leaving people even more socially isolated.

Roxanne Stuart misses visiting with friends and family in person (Photo courtesy: Roxanne Stuart)

Roxanne Stuart, 70, lives at The Manor at Seneca Hill in Oswego. They have not allowed visitors for weeks amid the coronavirus crisis. She does FaceTime with her family and catches up with her friends on the phone. “I’ve been fine because I keep busy. I finished two novels and I paint and I write letters and do crossword puzzles and word search,” said Stuart.

Roxanne Stuart fighting off loneliness by painting during the coronavirus pandemic (Photo courtesy: Roxanne Stuart)

According to AARP, loneliness was an issue before and it is even worse now because people do not have the same was to interact like senior centers, malls, parks and religious services and they cannot see family and friends in person. AARP has done considerable research on the impact of social isolation and came back with some shocking statistics even before the coronavirus crisis hit. “I don’t think any stat speaks louder than the simple fact that being socially isolated has the same impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” said Randy Hoack, Associate State Director for AARP. “That means that their heart disease perhaps is exacerbated. That means that they have trouble managing their diabetes and other conditions. That could contribute to mental health issues. That could contribute to depression and worse,” he said.

Now that many long-term care facilities are prohibiting visitors, it is more important than ever to stay connected with your loved ones. Here are some tips to help older adults avoid loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Show them how to use video chat on smartphones, laptops or tablets
  • Encourage friends and family to call them, write notes or send them cards
  • Get them involved in a family project like organizing photos or memorabilia
  • Ask them to share a favorite song, movie, book or family recipe

If you have an old smartphone or tablet, consider giving it to your older relative and take the time to virtually teach them how to use it so they can stay connected with the people they need now more than ever.

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