Seniors are among the most vulnerable populations to COVID-19.
This is not only because of the risk of the virus itself, but also the effects of being socially isolated.
The National Institute on Aging says loneliness can lead to issues in both physical and mental health in the elderly.
During the pandemic, some South Florida groups are stepping up and reaching out.
With the stress of COVID-19, staying stimulated and engaged is more important for seniors now than ever. Social distancing, however, makes that difficult.
That’s why 63-year-old Evelyn Chacin, says she is taking advantage of free services offered by the YMCA of South Florida.
“I do exercises,” she said. “I do breathing exercises that they have taught me in the workshops.”
All of these come on a link sent right to her phone. They are also providing her with added peace of mind.
“They are helping me with my food,” Chacin says. “They are helping me with my rent.”
The YMCA said even though their doors are closed, they have other ways to offer support that people may not realize.
”I am so proud of the opportunity to be able to allow the show to go on,” said YMCA of South Florida President, Sheryl Woods. “We’ve been able to find ways to get them the resources they so desperately need.”
“Right now, during this crisis, we have programs that we provide remotely on the phone or FaceTime,” said Emilia Solano, YMCA District Executive Director. “We have depression management program, a health navigation program.”
Health professionals like Dr. Gianna Neil, with ChenMed, said services like this are critical.
“Prior to COVID-19, we identified that being alone or feeling alone was a risk factor for our seniors to end up in the emergency room,” she explained.
While it helps keep them safe from contracting the virus, feeling isolated can negatively affect mental health.
“At a time when social isolation is a necessity, it’s like a double-edged sword, if you will,” said Dr. Neil. “We are trying our best to make sure we combat it with the technology and being a helping hand.“
Places like ChenMed are doing what they can to engage with older patients, even if not in person
“You can expect to get, what we call, a love call. This is a call for which there is no specific agenda,“ she said.
Dr. Neil says their staff also is delivering bags of food and supplies to their home-bound patients.
For seniors or those who may be caring for an aging loved one, she has some suggestions to help them cope. Ideas include sticking to a daily routine as best they can, performing chair exercises for mobility, doing word or number puzzles to keep the mind occupied, and keeping in touch with people regularly over the phone, or even FaceTime, if available.
By Karli Barnett