Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Loneliness Doubled for Older Adults in First Months of COVID-19 | #elderly | #seniors | #execrise – Active Lifestyle Media

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Healthily LifestyleLoneliness Doubled for Older Adults in First Months of COVID-19 | #elderly | #seniors | #execrise

Loneliness Doubled for Older Adults in First Months of COVID-19 | #elderly | #seniors | #execrise

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And many older adults said they engaged in healthy behaviors despite the pandemic – including 75% who said they were getting outdoors or interacting with nature, and 62% who said they got exercise several times a week. But those experiencing loneliness were less likely to engage in these healthy behaviors.

“As the pandemic continues, it will be critical to pay attention to how well we as a society support the social and emotional needs of older adults,” says John Piette, Ph.D., a professor at the U-M School of Public Health who worked with the poll team. “The intersection of loneliness and health still needs much study, but even as we gather new evidence, all of us can take time to reach out to older neighbors, friends and relatives in safe ways as they try to avoid the coronavirus.”

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“The change we see in these measures in less than two years is truly remarkable,” says Preeti Malani, M.D., the U-M Medical School professor who directs the poll and has training in geriatrics and infectious diseases. “The use of technology to bridge the gap, and the importance of keeping up healthy routines like exercise, sleep, a balanced diet and getting outside, will no doubt continue to be important in the months ahead.”

Interactions with health and lifestyle and feelings of loneliness and isolation

Malani notes that 80% of those polled in June said they were eating a healthy diet, and 81% said they got enough sleep – almost exactly the same as in the 2018 poll.  

The poll also found that half of those who live alone, and just over half (52%) of those who are unemployed or disabled, said they felt a lack of companionship, compared with 39% of those who live with others, work or are retired.

SEE ALSO: Many Older Adults, Especially Those with Health Issues, Feel Isolated

Similarly, just over half of those who said their physical health was fair or poor, and two-thirds of those who said the same about their mental health, said they lacked companionship. Nearly three-quarters of those who said their mental health was fair or poor said they felt isolated, compared with 55% of those reporting better mental health.

The use of technology to connect appears to be a double-edged sword, with those who use social media and video chat being more likely to say they felt isolated.

Moving forward: Avoiding loneliness and COVID-19 exposure in older adults as the pandemic continues

As the pandemic continues, and older adults try to avoid coronavirus infection and the outsized risk to their health, AARP is offering resources, including tips for older adults to avoid feeling isolated despite the pandemics. AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect website includes a tool that can help older adults assess their level of isolation, and connect them to resources and opportunities in their area.

“Past studies have shown that prolonged isolation has a profound negative effect on health and wellbeing — as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” says Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for AARP. “It’s not surprising that older adults reported more loneliness since the pandemic began, particularly those who live alone. We need to continue finding ways to connect and engage with one another throughout this public health crisis.”

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued a report in February 2020 about the need for the health care system to help in preventing, identifying and addressing loneliness in people over 50.

SEE ALSO: Pre-COVID-19 Poll of Older Adults Hints at Potential Impact of Pandemic on Their Eating Habits

The National Poll on Healthy Aging results are based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 2,074 adults aged 50 to 80 who answered a wide range of questions online. Questions were written, and data interpreted and compiled, by the IHPI team. Laptops and Internet access were provided to poll respondents who did not already have them.

A full report of the findings and methodology is available along with past National Poll on Healthy Aging reports.

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