As we’re finally easing our way out of the pandemic, we’re discovering more about how it has impacted older adults – both physically and emotionally. We know seniors have been at a higher risk of serious complications and death from the COVID-19 virus, but the impact of 15 months of social isolation and physical distancing is equally distressing.
Dr. Jonathan Bean of the New England Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System has noted a “significant decline in functioning” in both his senior patients and his own mother. While she had been able to walk with the assistance of a walker, participate in conversations, and engage in other activities of daily life independently pre-pandemic, her cognitive and self-care abilities have declined rapidly.
Physical therapist Linda Teodosio concurs, explaining, “Immobility and debility are outcomes to this horrific pandemic that people aren’t even talking about yet.” She is noticing a substantial uptick in both chronic disease exacerbation and falls – likely due to poor lifestyle choices brought on by the pandemic, such as unhealthy eating habits and less exercise.
As a result, more and more seniors are in need of physical therapy and other rehabilitative services. A number of health plans are addressing the issue by following up with seniors to check on their wellbeing and to help connect them with the services they need to regain their strength. Surprisingly, as much as 20% of a senior’s muscle mass can be lost simply by not walking for up to five days, according to physical therapist Sabaa Mundia.
Before jumping into a new exercise regimen, however, it’s crucial that seniors first meet with their doctor for a consultation and seek recommendations for safe, ability-appropriate physical activity. With medical approval, seniors can seek support to begin to stick to a healthier lifestyle that includes ample exercise.
To help the elderly regain strength, let Seniorcorp encourage the seniors in your life to stay physically active and engaged to restore strength post-pandemic. Our professional caregivers are always available to provide the motivation to help older adults make exercise part of the daily routine. We can also provide transportation and accompaniment to exercise classes, the gym, the pool – wherever and whenever a senior would like to go. Sometimes, just adding in a daily walk with one of our friendly caregivers can make a noticeable difference in how seniors feel!