“What did you do in last year’s lockdown? Did you get bored?” asked a 35-year-old man to the 75-year-old neighbor. “Why would I get bored? I was more than happy because everyone was at home, we were having all the meals together and the best part was – my granddaughter taught me how to operate a smartphone. I got connected with my friends after so long.” the neighbor replied. The same question was asked to another 70-year-old neighbor. He replied saying “Pandemic did affect my life negatively. I lost my wife due to COVID. My life changed completely after that. I felt lonely like never before. I could not even meet my friends and family after that. It wasn’t really good.”
Just like other citizens, the pandemic has had negative as well as positive impacts on senior citizen’s lives as well. Positive impacts such as time to be yourself, learn new things, introspect, being considerate towards self and others whereas negative impacts such as isolation, being over-dependant on others, loneliness, imposed restrictions, etc. Because of such negative changes happening to their lives, these people are suffering from multiple mental health issues.
Mental health issues in older adults :
Older adults have been hit harder by COVID-19 when compared to other age groups since they fall under the high-risk category. And living alone during this time can be challenging. There is excessive fear, worry about your health and the health of your loved ones. There can be changes in sleep and eating patterns because of the changed routine. They might face difficulty in concentrating as well. Few adults who are living alone can consume alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs for releasing anxiety or sleep excessively which can hamper their physical health as well. Feeling anxious or having panic attacks can also be common because of excessive worry and overthinking.
We have heard the common saying that – ‘Old age is just another childhood’. So, just like young children, older adults also get bored of just being at home. They might feel that we are stuck and can have a feeling of boredom, imprisonment. This feeling makes them irritated, frustrated, and adamant about their decisions which often results in conflicts with family members as well. They also become very rigid about their thoughts and principles. The uncertainty about the future also makes them angry and overthink the situation.
The Scenario of people living alone or in old age homes –
According to NGOs, there are around 25 million elderly people who live independently in India. Older adults in old age homes or living alone are in a vulnerable state during this pandemic. The major problem these people are facing is self-neglect. They are more dependent on others now which can often give them feelings of helplessness. Besides being highly susceptible to the virus, their old age has also made it difficult for them to socialize, which is adding to their anxiety and loneliness. The pandemic has increased their feeling of loneliness because earlier family members used to come and meet them once in a while. Now, that has also reduced and they are all alone.
How can you as a citizen/family member help these adults to keep their mental health in check?
- Stay in touch with them through telephone, video calls, or social media if they are away from you.
- Spend quality time with them if you are staying with them.
- Deliver home-cooked meals to the neighbors or people living alone.
- Run errands for them like buying daily essentials like fruits, vegetables, grocery. Tell them to ask you without hesitating.
- Check-in on them frequently.
- Teach them new things.
- Educate them about the virtual world if they are unaware of it.
How to take care of your mental health if you are a senior citizen?
- Set a routine for eating, sleeping, and for things you enjoy doing such as gardening, cleaning, etc.
- Eat healthy and well-balanced meals.
- Even if you can’t go out, indulge yourself in physical activities at home such as yoga, breathing exercises, stretching, etc.
- Spend time in recreational activities such as reading, listening to music, etc.
- Keep your brain engaged by solving various puzzles such as crossword, Sudoku, etc.
- Cut down on listening to the news. Always filter out the reliable news and do not watch it all the time.
- Seek the help of a professional if you feel overwhelmed or anxious.
To know more about secrets to aging successfully, join Sakal WAITT’s live webinar on 15th May.2021 (Saturday) with Dr. Sharad Hardikar (Founder- Hardikar Hospital) in conversation with Mrunal Pawar (Director – Sakal Media Group)