How is Senior Living being Affected During the Pandemic?
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The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic on March 11th, 2020. The pandemic has since continued to devastate livelihoods the world over. Senior citizens are particularly facing hard times, even death. The fatality rate for people over the age of 80 is five times that of the global average.
Approximately 66% of those over 70 years have at least an underlying condition. The conditions place them at a higher risk of succumbing to the severe effects of the virus. Today, the pandemic has rapidly spread throughout the world, overwhelming the health and social protection systems. This has seen the mortality rate for seniors going even higher.
Most senior citizens may face age discrimination when it comes to medical care decisions and life-saving therapies. Due to global inequalities, more than half the population of older people may not have access to essential health care services. There is a likelihood of scaling back of services not related to the COVID-19 virus, further increasing the risk of their lives.
Here are the various ways how older adults are negatively affected by COVID-19.
1. Care and Support Services
The pandemic has exposed the scarce and underfunded care and support services for senior people. Thus, most of them lack control and choice over the care and support services. The nature of care and support services that older people require vary. However, they are either limited or unaffordable for most senior people in many jurisdictions. For most older people, it is the family members who offer the care and support.
Therefore, governments need to invest in care and support facilities and equip them with the necessary amenities and accessories such as wheelchairs, adult diapers, etc. This will ensure that older people can get adequate care and support services.
Once they are fully equipped, they will cater to each individual's needs during the pandemic period and promote their overall well-being while maintaining their autonomy and independence.
Solutions and Recommendations
-A response in humanitarian settings should be deployed. The response should be sensitive to various risks older people face and contribute to the United Nations Global Humanitarian Response Plan.
-There should be income security, particularly for older women. The universal pension coverage and other adequate entitlement levels should address this.
-Immediate social-economic measures and safety nets should be adopted. Older people should have guaranteed access to clean water, food, and essential goods and services. Those affected by economic hardships should also be guaranteed primary healthcare during the pandemic.
2. Social and Economic Well-Being
While the lives and safety of older people are being affected by the virus, it also threatens their jobs, pensions, social networks, and access to health services. The ones receiving care in the community or at home are on the verge of being affected by the physical distancing measures.
Prolonged periods of social distancing and isolation are likely to affect their mental faculties, given that a good percentage of them are not digitally included. The employment and income are also low given the share of old persons in the labor force has gone up to almost 10% over several years back.
Social protection is a surefire safety net. However, the coverage gap in developing countries is extensive, and only less than 20% of senior citizens receive a pension.
Solutions and Recommendations
-Integrating a focus on senior people into the socio-economic and humanitarian response to the virus.
-Expansion of participation by senior people where they can share good practices and harness knowledge and data.
-Strengthening solidarity and social inclusion during physical distancing.
-Tough healthcare decisions for older citizens are guided by dignity, commitment, and the right to health.
3. Digital Divide
The young generation uses the internet and other digital technologies as a window to the world during the pandemic and worldwide lockdown. These technologies allow them to connect and communicate with family and friends and the community at large.
This is not the case with older people during this period. They have limited access to these technologies or equally lack the skills to use them. Over half of the world’s population has access to the internet. However, senior people are always left behind and have only the offline means to access information.
Take a case like in the UK where up to 4.2 million people aged 65 and over have never used the internet.
In developing countries, the figure of older people with no access to the internet is even higher. Senior people living in the institutions also struggle to receive the needed support to connect with their loved ones, especially during the pandemic and lockdown. Barriers that these people face due to literacy and language, including hearing and visual impairment, may have been amplified by the pandemic.
This digital divide also denies older people access to information concerning the pandemic and the laid down social-economic measures. They may also not be able to access certain services, like online shopping, telemedicine, and banking during this time of social distancing and lockdown.
Thus, it is vital to work with communities and use alternative formats like print notifications, text messages, and radio broadcasts for senior citizens. This will ensure critical information such as the measures to protect seniors against the virus and how to get certain services is well communicated.
Solutions and Recommendations
-The needs of senior persons should be assessed, particularly for those with limited mobility and cognitive decline. This step will help in providing targeted support, including psychosocial support and mental health.
-It is wise to use terms to describe senior citizens that do not stigmatize them. Avoid stereotyping and avoid labeling them as vulnerable or uniformity frail. Words that carry bias or negative connotations should be avoided.
-Mobile services should be increased to allow for access to more isolated senior persons. It will also see that those with limited mobility can assess their needs and get the much-needed support.
Senior-living persons are at high risk of contracting COVID-19. Everyone should act in solidarity to prevent the community from spreading the virus. However, there should be ways to interact with these people and reaffirm their support in society. Protecting and supporting senior persons living alone or otherwise in the community should be everybody’s business.