In March of this year, COVID-19 arrived in the U.S. and changed everything for Americans, including older adults. Gone were the family get-togethers, social visits with friends, and regular shopping trips. While some older adults are generally healthy and live comfortably during the pandemic, they and many others also live alone and more isolated than ever. This deprival of activities and increased isolation have a real impact on senior health. The most prominent impact is on older adults’ mental health in what is commonly known as the COVID Blues.
Older adults sometimes experience “the blues” even when there isn’t a pandemic happening, but the COVID Blues take it to another level. Seniors know they are more vulnerable to illness and as a result, must be more vigilant about protecting their health by avoiding situations that would put them at risk. Not only are seniors themselves isolating, but the whole country is making efforts to isolate and social distance to slow the spread of the virus. While this is a necessary evil, some seniors may feel personally responsible for this disruption in the lives of others and damage to the economy, which of course contributes to those COVID Blues.
Beyond that feeling of personal responsibility (no matter how irrational), seniors are more keenly aware of time – and time lost. Older adults have fewer days remaining and may feel what time they have left is being wasted in isolation. Gone are the normal activities and events that once filled their days. Even when the time comes when life gets back to “normal”, seniors will have lost precious days they won’t get back.
The most painful contributor to COVID Blues for seniors is being witnessed to the challenges being experienced by their loved ones – loss of steady income, non-existent childcare, remote learning, and more. If there were no pandemic, seniors would happily rush to provide whatever kind of support they could to help their struggling loved ones, whether it be to provide some much-needed childcare or cook a hot meal. However, now all they can do is lend an ear from afar. And with no way to actively provide solutions, seniors’ mental health suffers further.
While COVID-19 is keeping everyone from their normal activities, there are still ways to combat the COVID Blues and strengthen senior health. First, take advantage of nature. Go on a hike at a state park or a relaxing swim at a nearby lake. While the virus keeps us from being together, it doesn’t keep us from enjoying the great outdoors.
If getting outside just isn’t a possibility, there are still things you can do. Use your green thumb to grow some houseplants or start a small vegetable garden. Or if you crave interaction, look no further than a four-legged friend. Pets are known to provide unconditional love and companionship.
Finally, something you can do no matter where you are is to reframe your thinking. It is easy when isolated and alone to focus on the negatives but instead try to appreciate the blessings in your life. While going out to eat may not be a possibility right now, you have food in your home. Physically seeing friends and family may not be a possibility right now, but they are still there and can talk on the phone (or Zoom!). If you struggle with hearing them on the phone, contact Countryside Hearing Aid Services for help.
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