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I am OK with a year off from hosting massive gatherings, but I worry about family members who live alone and face such loneliness.Renee Riley, a longtime caregiver for multiple family members in Columbus, Ohio,
- What do Older Adults and People with Disabilities Need to Know? Your risk of serious COVID-19 illness may be increased
— 𝕄𝕖𝕞𝕖𝕕𝕚𝕥𝕠𝕣𝕚𝕒𝕝𝕚𝕤𝕥 (@ajhtweeting) December 13, 2020
The population of seniors has been facing a challenging reality for over a month in Canada and many parts of the world, as a result of strict public health measures designed to protect the most vulnerable from the Covid-19 outbreak. The senior population is advised to practice physical distancing. However, just as their physical wellbeing is at stake at this moment, their social and mental wellbeing have also been a major concern during the COVID-19 crisis.
From tools that monitor and manage seniors’ health conditions to communication platforms that connect seniors with their families and friends, several new technologies can make a major difference for seniors during the COVID-19 crisis if effectively leveraged. But are there challenges in engaging the population of seniors in these technologies? Two researchers from the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management discuss how health information and communication technologies can help the population of seniors overcome the hurdles brought by physical distancing.
Unintended Consequences of Physical Distancing
Although extremely necessary during these unprecedented times, physical distancing may have “unintended consequences” on our senior population. “If seniors are expected to be physically distancing, would this lead to social isolation, and subsequently contribute to faster deterioration in their mental health and frailty?” asks Mirou Jaana, a Full Professor at the Telfer School of Management. She notes that, given the limited interaction that seniors are currently having with the rest of the society, it is important to closely monitor change in their overall health, particularly in the case of seniors living with frailty, chronic diseases, and mental health issues.
Home telemonitoring devices for chronic diseases, teleconsultation tools, fall-detection technologies, health applications on smart devices, and several other health information technologies can support elderly patients in managing their health, maintaining their autonomy, and improving their physical and psychological health. Through her research, Professor Jaana examines how many of these technologies can also help elderly patients stay connected to their health care providers and caregivers:
“Health information technologies can be used to ensure that caregivers and health care providers are aware of any changes in the health conditions of seniors, but more than that, during these unprecedented times, technology may also be leveraged to keep seniors connected, mentally stimulated, and reassured that they are not alone,” explains Professor Jaana.
“The ability to communicate and stay connected with loved ones is fundamental to happiness and wellness,” explains Michael Mulvey, Assistant Professor at Telfer and a research collaborator at the LIFE Research Institute. He is part of a team of researchers who examine issues around ageing and quality of life. “A visit, or virtual visit, can be the best medicine to stay positive and add variety to a daily schedule,” he adds.
More than the potential to encourage social connections, some of these technologies can also empower the population of seniors, allowing them to share their life experience and knowledge during a time when our communities would benefit from their invaluable wisdom. “With devices in hand, seniors in long-term care facilities can visit with people anywhere,” explains Professor Mulvey. He also illustrates that “seniors could visit classrooms and be guest speakers in a grade school class or university lecture.”
The Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete program was launched in February 2020 alongside the commemoration of American Heart Month.
No one could have expected the heart and courage required of our five outstanding athletes over the following 11 months.
Adapting to new health and wellness routines amid a pandemic wasn’t easy, but each individual prevailed with new levels of creativity and strength. A
After a year unlike any other, we asked each athlete to answer the following question:
What have you learned about yourself, and what matters to your wellness during the pandemic?
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