While we are finally working our way towards the end of the pandemic, we’re learning more on how it has affected older adults – both emotionally and physically. We all know older adults have been at a higher risk of serious issues and death due to the COVID-19 virus, but the impact of 15 months of physical distancing and social isolation is similarly devastating.
Dr. Jonathan Bean of the New England Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System has noticed a “significant decline in functioning” in both his elderly patients and his own mother. While she had been able to walk with the assistance of a walker, participate in conversations, and take part in other activities of everyday life independently pre-pandemic, her self-care and cognitive abilities have declined quickly.
Physical therapy Linda Teodosio confirms this decline in senior strength, explaining, “Immobility and debility are outcomes to this horrific pandemic that people aren’t even talking about yet.” She is noticing a significant uptick in both falls and chronic disease exacerbation – very likely because of poor lifestyle choices due to the pandemic, such as unhealthy eating habits and less exercise.
As an end result, more and more seniors could require physical therapy along with other rehabilitative services. A range of health plans are addressing the problem by following up with seniors to confirm their wellbeing and help connect them to the services they require to restore their strength. Interestingly, up to 20% of an older adult’s muscle mass can be lost by just not walking for up to five days, according to physical therapist Sabaa Mundia.
Before jumping into a new exercise program, however, it is vital that seniors first schedule a consultation with the physician for a full exam and tips about safe, ability-appropriate exercise. Then, make a plan to assist the seniors in your life to stick with a more healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise.
Let JFS Care, the home care division of Jewish Family Services, help the seniors that you know stay as engaged and physically active as possible to enhance senior strength post-pandemic. Our care providers are always readily available to offer the motivation and encouragement to help older adults make physical exercise a routine part of every day. We can also provide transportation and accompaniment to exercise classes, the gymnasium, the pool – wherever and whenever an older adult would like to go. Sometimes, just adding in a daily walk with one of our friendly caregivers can make a world of difference in how seniors feel!