A senior-aged woman peers out her balcony window, smiling. Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash.

In times of uncertainty, it’s natural for almost everyone to experience some kind of stress or anxiety. It’s no wonder then that the current climate of COVID-19 has shown at-risk populations, including older adults and senior citizens, to have some of the highest levels of worry and distress. Although these sentiments are valid, they don’t have to be experienced all the time, and certainly do not need to be as intense as they may so often feel.

In this article, we’ll provide guidance on how older adults and seniors can better manage the stress, anxiety, and loneliness that may accompany physical distancing and other COVID-19 prevention practices. For more information on geriatric wellness and self-care for seniors, please reach out to our team of caregiving professionals at Heritage Assisted Living.

Mental Health & COVID-19

Before delving into the ways that stress and anxiety can be better managed, it’s worth noting the reactions that COVID-19 can elicit in the first place. Since individuals over the age of 65 are at an increased risk of contracting the virus, they are more likely to suffer from these negative psychological effects. Knowing how to recognize them is the first step to minimizing their impact and regaining a calmer state of mind.

Reactions and mental health symptoms that COVID-19 may cause among senior citizens:

  • Anxiety and worry about how to protect oneself from infection
  • Loneliness and feelings of isolation, especially for those practicing physical distancing or living independently 
  • Feeling guilty when friends and family try to offer assistance and/or comfort
  • Resurfacing of previously experienced mental health conditions like depression, panic attacks, and insomnia
  • Loss of appetite or unintentional loss of weight
  • Fear of losing access to healthcare services or community resources 

Coping Strategies For COVID-19 Stress

For as many disconcerting emotions and reactions that COVID-19 may cause in seniors, there are just as many — if not more — ways to manage these effects and regain a sense of control. 

Take Regular Breaks From Reading & Watching The News 

Many older adults like to read the news in order to stay up-to-date on important trends and information, but when nearly every media outlet is saturated with content about the pandemic, it can be difficult to find much enjoyment in the act. To help reduce stress and anxious thoughts about COVID-19, be sure to take regular breaks from your engagement with news and related media. By no means should current events be ignored, but seniors should be cognizant of the amount of time they spend reading or watching news content pertaining to the coronavirus. 

Maintain Physical Health

Now more than ever, an optimally functioning immune system is vital for older adults, as more than a third of COVID-19 cases are reported in individuals between the ages of 50 and 75+. As they get older, seniors may have increased difficulty maintaining their physical health, whether it’s due to a medical condition that limits their mobility or simply a result of the natural aging process. If you live independently, make efforts to eat well, to engage in light exercise (suited to your ability), and to get adequate rest every night — and a nap couldn’t hurt either! If you are reading this for a loved one who needs additional care, assisted living services  or memory care may be able help them stay in optimal health and high spirits.

Stay In Touch Via Technology

For many people, the most difficult part of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the element of physical distancing. Whether we are young or old, humans are social creatures by nature, and to remove the ability to engage with friends, family members, and other loved ones in the same close-knit way as before can be a huge blow to one’s otherwise positive outlook on life. Seniors will feel this loss especially if they live alone or cannot engage in community activities in the same way as before.

Fortunately, modern technology does provide ways to keep in touch with those who matter most — even if it’s just through a touch screen. Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom are all free and easy ways to send messages and to video-chat with others, whether they’re in a different house or a different hemisphere. 

Do What Makes You Happy

If the COVID-19 pandemic teaches us anything, it’s that the little things matter a lot. During this period of uncertainty, older adults and senior citizens can maximize good moods and minimize stress and anxiety by engaging in activities that bring them joy and a sense of purpose. Whether it’s completing a challenging jigsaw puzzle, reading a favorite book, or slowing down to practice mindfulness and meditation, there is no shortage of tools and tactics to keep your mind active and your spirits elevated.

We’re Here For You During COVID-19

About Heritage at Hammonton

At our assisted living center in Hammonton, we strive to provide valuable health and wellness resources not just to our community of residents, but to the broader senior population as a whole. Contact us today for more information on our current intake process and steps we’re taking to flatten the curve at our New Jersey facility.