Mental Health for Seniors During the Pandemic – Part 1

Social distancing, once a phrase only heard of in science fiction films, has now become our everyday reality. While social distancing helps stop the spread of COVID-19, it can have some negative mental health consequences, especially for seniors.  

Since seniors are at higher risk for negative outcomes from COVID-19, they are more likely to self-restrict their activities and interactions. According to the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, this self-restriction can lead to isolation and loneliness, which often result in increased anxiety, depression, and chronic stress.  

It’s important to be aware of these effects and encourage activities that promote positive well-being. Here are 3 ways to support the mental health of your seniors:  

  1. Take walks. Physical activity has been shown to decrease feelings of loneliness and promote well-being in older adults. A recent study in the National Institute of Health found that seniors engaged in walking groups had decreased anxiety and depression. Encourage the seniors in your life to engage in daily walks. It’s an easy and effective way to counter the negative effects of social distancing. 
  1. Stay in contact. One of the biggest causes of loneliness is fewer interactions with loved ones and friends. Reaching out to family and friends is a great way to help alleviate the stresses of social distancing. Try teaching the seniors in your life about using technology to connect with you. The American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry has found that social distancing has actually led to seniors increased comfortability using technology.  
  1. Keep them involved in decision making. Loss of autonomy is another huge cause of loneliness and isolation. Often, seniors are not involved in the decisions made in their lives. This can be extremely distressing. According to the Asian Journal of Psychiatry, in order to preserve seniors’ autonomy, respect and dignity, caregivers should give seniors an active role in the decision-making process.  

To help the seniors in your life during these unprecedented social-distancing times, encourage physical activity, stay in contact, and keep them involved in decision making. At the end of the day, this situation is temporary and if you promote positive well-being to the seniors in your life, we will get through these times.

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