After a year-long global pandemic, life looks very different. The coronavirus has prevented many of us from seeing our loved ones and spending time with our friends. It has restricted our favorite activities, hit our local businesses hard, deprived us of our leisure, and cast a pall of anxiety and uncertainty over nearly every aspect of daily life.
Though we have all had to adapt to these unprecedented changes, many communities have struggled with mental health challenges due to the extreme emotional stress brought on by COVID-19. In fact, in late June 2020, almost 40 percent of respondents said they were grappling with mental health or substance abuse issues. Seniors have been hit especially hard by COVID-19. They face startling mortality rates and highly stringent restrictions to counteract its spread.
Depression in older adults was a serious issue before the pandemic. Many experts were concerned about how COVID-19’s effects could worsen mental health for that group. However, based on a recent study by the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP), the news is surprisingly positive. The study showed that older adults have continued to stand tall in the face of overwhelming adversity. Though the pandemic has touched millions of lives in devastating ways, seniors remain strong and resilient.
The Data On Senior Resilience
The NSHAP study, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, was part of a long-term study tracking older Americans’ physical and emotional well-being. The survey collected data from 1,284 adults between 55 and 99. The first data came in 2015, then 2016, and again during September and October of 2020. The study attempted to explain how COVID-19 was affecting older adults by comparing their responses to pre-pandemic data. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus four percent.
One of the most critical factors for seniors right now is mental health. Five years ago, responses suggested that seven percent of seniors reported having fair or poor overall mental health. With an increase in stress, isolation, and loss during the past year, researchers expects the number to increase dramatically.
However, the study’s first surprising finding was that the number of seniors with poor mental health barely increased. In 2020, nine percent of seniors reported fair to poor mental health — only a two percent increase. Study respondents were even slightly less likely to report feeling left out of social situations. Despite so many things going wrong in the past year, seniors have kept up their spirits.
Despite Emotional Fortitude, Seniors Still Struggle
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. The report found about half as many seniors said they were extremely happy. Many also reported occasionally feeling depressed and isolated. The data points to some clear reasons why many older adults would experience increased depression. One in five adults have had no in-person contact with family or friends outside the household during the pandemic. With so many seniors cut off from primary support networks and deprived of in-person contact, it’s little wonder some have struggled.
Luckily seniors are coping with these difficulties. 27 percent of older adults have increased their number of video calls with family members outside of their household. 20 percent have done so with friends. On top of that, 79 percent use at least one technological form of communication, from phone calls, messages, or video chats, at least once a week. In fact, the frequency of phone calls lagged behind messaging and video calls by up to 10 percent. Though many seniors are not as comfortable with modern technology, they have stepped out of their comfort zones to stay connected with loved ones.
Even The Most Resilient Seniors Need Help
Seniors often face challenges that younger people don’t have to worry about, from increased social isolation, increased health issues, and a loss of independence and loved ones. But this study shows that just because seniors deal with unique concerns and difficulties, they don’t have to let those challenges get them down. The study concludes that “overall mental health and indicators of loneliness show that older adults are no worse off now than they were in 2015–16 — an indication of their resilience despite the pandemic.”
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.” That process of adaptation is a learned trait rather than an innate one, a skill that can be honed and practiced over time. With a lifetime of experience at their backs, seniors have had decades to learn how to adapt to adversity. Perhaps it should be little surprise that so many are taking COVID-19 in stride.
Though a study can reveal a bit about what seniors are going through during these times, every experience is different. Despite standing strong against unprecedented adversity in 2020, many seniors are still coping with pandemic-related difficulties. From increased isolation to eating well, the stress of COVID-19 can make it hard to thrive. That’s where an in-home caregiver can help.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.