Page 26 - Senior Times South Central Michigan February 2021 - 28-02
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Page 26 Senior Times - February 2021
By: Sherii Sherban, Publisher
  The busyness of the holiday season is well behind us now. Hopefully each of you had an opportunity to interact with family and friends. Sadly, many aging adults did not. COVID-19 has made the traditional opportunity to check in with aging loved ones more challenging this year. Consequently, many aging adults are feel- ing more lonely and isolated than usual. This lack of connection has been felt across all age brackets, but it is exceptionally concerning, and potentially dangerous, when it impacts older adults.
 Studies show that chronic loneliness can adversely affect memory, mental and physical health, and longevity. These studies have con- tinually been proven to be correct throughout this past year. The long-term impact of iso- lation has lead loved ones to experience real apprehension. Finding solutions begins with acknowledging what we have learned through- out this time.
We all turned to social media to try and make social connections with love ones. Results from the poll indicated that nearly 70% of older adults reported connecting with fam- ily or friends outside their home using social media and 57% used video chat. The effort to connect in this way was significant. Three in five used social media and nearly one third used video chat once a week or more. The poll identified no difference in feelings of compan- ionship and isolation among those who used video chat compared to those who did not. Social media did not fare as well.
may not buffer feelings of loneliness for many older adults, and in some cases make it less beneficial than not using it all.
A University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging published in September 2020 indicates that many in the aging population are feeling the effects on their physical and mental health. This poll found that loneliness and lim- ited social contact during the pandemic were strongly associated with depressive symptoms and overall mental health among older adults. A greater proportion of adults age 50–80 felt a lack of companionship, felt socially isolated, and had infrequent contact with others from outside their home during the early months of the pandemic than in 2018 when those numbers were already worrisomely high.
Sadly, according to the poll, as much as
we want social media to be a solution for our lack of direct contact with our loved ones it may actually be making it worse for some. “... Adults age 50–80 who used social media were more likely to report feeling isolated than those who did not use social media (58% vs. 51%).
On a positive note, older adults who inter- acted with others in their neighborhood or spent time outdoors at least a few times per week were less likely to feel lonely, a lack
of companionship, or isolated. Nearly half responding to the poll said they interacted with people in their neighborhood at least a few times per week, and three in four report- ed spending time outdoors or interacting with nature at least weekly from March-June 2020.
 Specifically, the poll shows loneliness dou- bled among older adults in the first months of COVID-19. Furthermore, more than half of older adults reported feeling isolated from others compared to 27% in 2018.
These results suggest that the use of video chat and social media, while helpful for some,
In both survey years, people who regu- larly engaged in healthy behaviors including regular exercise and getting enough sleep several times a week were generally less like- ly to experience loneliness compared to those who did not.
The results of this poll suggest that the
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