Self-quarantine: a glimpse into the lives of older adults.
During self-quarantine to stop the spread of Coronavirus, we’re experiencing what many older adults experience every day. The inability to get up and go whenever and wherever we want has changed our perspective. Our priorities have changed and have forced us to think about taking trips to the grocery store or elsewhere only when absolutely necessary. Now imagine if this was your new normal, not just for the time being but for the rest of your life. Older adults who have limited physical abilities face this all the time. We can use this self-quarantine experience as a learning opportunity for what our parents and other older adults are challenged with.
The impact of loneliness on health
Besides the increased health risks related to Coronavirus for those over the age of 65, loneliness may impact their ability to fight off the virus. White blood cells, called leukocytes, play an important role in how the immune system responds to infection. A UCLA study showed that participants who identified themselves as lonely had leukocytes that showed a decreased expression of genes that help fight off viruses.
“Staying connected to other people is a basic human need and is important to our well-being,” according to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University. It’s crucial for the overall health of seniors to know they are cared about and connected to others.
During this pandemic, many people have reached out to older loved ones to check in on them and make sure they have what they need. After the crisis is over, it’s important to help them continue to feel connected. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture:
Send a card
Share a favorite meal
Call or video chat for 30 minutes once a week
Build a puzzle or play a favorite game together
A few simple steps can have a meaningful difference in their lives.
Making home a little more sweet
Now that you have spent more time in your home, you may have been giving more thought to what’s working for you and what isn’t. Once things return back to normal, older adults will continue to spend a lot of time at home. The way they feel about the space they are living in can have a profound effect on their overall attitude. Thoughtful interior design for aging-in-place goes beyond just making the living space safe, although that’s an important part of it. It’s about creating a space where seniors can thrive, stay positive and feel connected.
Besides addressing fall risks, visual impairments and memory declines, aging-in-place design takes into consideration many things that can impact their well being like the importance of displaying personal objects that impact the older adult’s sense of self-identity. Exposure to natural light is another consideration. A study shows that access to natural light makes individuals feel more positive and assists with sleep because it helps regulate their circadian rhythms. The more time an individual spends in their home, the bigger the impact their living environment will have on their overall quality of life.
Returning to normal
As you return to your normal routines and start going out and about as part of your daily experience, remember the limitations and isolation the older adults in your life may continue to experience. Taking a few additional opportunities to make them feel connected and living in a safe, comfortable space environment will bring a great deal of value to their lives, and yours, long after this crisis is over.