The world is starting to look ahead to a post-COVID-19 future. While the virus is still going strong in many parts of the world and though mask-wearing and social distancing have become part of the “new normal,” some are wondering if the world will ever be the same, particularly for older citizens. So, what is the future for senior citizens?
Senior citizens and other high-risk individuals saw their lives change immensely when the pandemic struck. The need to aggressively socially distance led to many people within this group keeping primarily to their homes. But while other people can begin returning to normal life, many senior citizens have seen changes that are likely to last the remainder of their lives.
A shift to telemedicine—seeking medical advice and care virtually—is only one on a long list of likely changes the future holds for senior citizens. Changes to travel will also be necessary, as older citizens avoid crowded airlines for safer options.
Unfortunately, some big negatives come along with these necessary changes. Perpetual social distancing will massively impact senior citizens’ ability to engage with friends and family, and a rise in depression among the age group is expected to follow. As Choi Byung-wan, a 79-year-old who lives in Seoul, told the BBC, “I’ve been stuck at home alone for months.”
The necessity of continued social distancing may also put the elder population in danger from other sources. Routine cancer screenings and other necessary but easily neglected medical care will likely fall to the wayside as people consider the more prevalent threat of coronavirus. The pandemic has also led to a rise in drinking and drug use for some people, which could shorten life spans. There’s also a worry about future Social Security benefits and whether they could be reduced at some point.
There are some good sides to the shift senior citizens are likely to see in the coming months and years. A shift from nursing homes and assisted living should place more elderly people in the homes of family members. This will also see more homes adapted to accommodate for handicapable use.
Others have found new (or old) hobbies to keep themselves entertained. “I paint, and I enjoy that, and I play the piano,” Margaret Steele, a resident at The Palace Coral Gables, told the CBS affiliate in Miami. “I had not played in 75 years and I practice every day for an hour now.”
One expert told Today that seniors should reach out to others. “The main thing is to reach out,” 86-year-old psychotherapist Katharine Esty said. “When you’re feeling really blue, call a friend who is worse off than you. There’s nothing that will make people feel better than doing something nice for somebody else.”
Even rapper Future is doing his part to make life a little easy for Atlanta’s senior citizens during the pandemic.
The CDC outlines a number of measures for “older adults” to follow as the pandemic continues. The page notes that those “aged 85 or older” are at the highest risk for severe illness stemming from COVID-19. Eight out of 10 COVID-19-related deaths have occurred in people over the age of 65. The guidelines include advice to avoid people without masks, to stay in when possible, and to keep “mask cloth, tissues, and a hand sanitizer” on hand. It also advises that gatherings should be kept to outside spaces where possible.