3 Unhealthy Ways COVID-19 Affects Senior Mental Wellbeing

As social beings, we need meaningful human connection in order to thrive. Unfortunately, the need for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many seniors who live on their own or in retirement villages feeling isolated and lonely. With their family and friends unable to visit, they are denied the positive health effects of human interaction, which can significantly impact their mental health.

Here’s how physical distancing is negatively affecting wellbeing in the elderly, and what you can do to help manage it.
1. Isolation leads to a decline in cognitive function
Without frequent and meaningful social interactions, senior’s cognitive functioning is likely to decline. Older adults are especially prone to depression and anxiety. Some other mental health risks associated with loneliness and isolation include schizophrenia, dementia and Alzheimer’s. This is in addition to any pre-existing conditions, along with seniors’ increased vulnerability to the coronavirus itself.
2. Isolation can lead to physical health complications too
Studies have shown that isolation can lead to physical ailments too, including heart disease, breast cancer and high blood pressure. What’s more, the need to stay indoors much of the time restricts older people’s ability to get regular exercise. This in turn affects their physical health, causing muscles to weaken, weight gain, loss of mobility and flexibility, and a higher likelihood of falling.
3. Signs and symptoms of isolation in the elderly
There are a number of signs to watch out for that could indicate an older person is suffering from mental or physical illness due to isolation. These include feelings of depression and anxiety, aggressive behaviour, low sleep quality, memory loss and neglect of personal hygiene and self-care.
What you can do to help
While the need for social distancing may not decline for the foreseeable future, there are a number of ways friends and family can make their elderly loved ones feel more included and connected. Consider using smart devices for regular video calls and chats. Emails and text messages are a great way to send a quick note and check-in. For a personal touch, try writing a physical letter or putting together a care package with some mementoes, their favourite snacks, framed photos or pamper products.
At Totalcare, we’re making it a priority to give our residents the full support and attention they need to feel cared for and included. We offer a number of social yet safe activities and hobbies that allow seniors to engage with each other and our professional staff members, along with a social dining experience and beautifully landscaped gardens for outdoor exercise.
Here is a list of activities we offer all our residents.

Social distancing is an effective solution to slow the spread of COVID-19. But it is having unfortunate side effects on the mental and physical wellbeing of seniors. We discuss the impact that isolation is having on elderly individuals and some ideas on what you can do to help them through this challenging time.