Year Three of the Pandemic Begins, and Experts Offer Advice for Older Adults
We’ve just passed the second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical science has learned so much about this disease, and while things are looking up, it is still important to protect against the virus—not only for ourselves, but for others. But we shouldn’t forget our all-around physical and mental health either, say geriatrics experts. Here are three good things to know.
Managing Uncertainty at This Time
We’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs in the past two years. For a while it seemed that the pandemic was nearing the end—and then the Delta variant came along. Next, there was Omicron. It’s been hard to make plans or know what to do, and older adults along with everyone else wish they could get back to normal!
Dr. Joshua A. Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, says it’s important to look at the big picture during this stressful time. He says that to cope with the uncertainty, we should take steps to protect our mental health along with our physical health. He offers these tips:
- Be sure you are sleeping well.
- Eat nutritious food.
- Take part in activities that give you pleasure.
- Stick to a routine.
- Turn off the news if it is upsetting.
- Reach out to other people.
- Connect with family and friends in person as recommended.
- Take part in virtual visits.
The COVID Vaccine Provides a Different Kind of Boost
One more thing we can do to improve our mental health is to get our COVID-19 vaccine! Research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found an important “side effect” of the vaccine. “Our study documents important psychological benefits of vaccination beyond reducing the risk of severe illness and death associated with COVID-19,” said lead investigator Jonathan Koltai, who is a sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire.
Koltai’s research confirms that many people are depressed and stressed out as they worry about contracting the virus, and cope with the challenges of the pandemic. But the study also found that after getting vaccinated, many people felt better. They were not only at lower risk of severe illness, but also experienced more hope and positivity. “Becoming vaccinated made people feel safer in addition to being safer,” the study authors concluded.
Don’t Postpone Important Medical Care
Researchers from the University of Michigan have found that during the pandemic, many seniors have delayed their normal health appointments and care. Older patients have postponed recommended surgeries and procedures. Others have avoided routine appointments with their primary care health care provider or their dentist. In some cases, patients cancelled or delayed these appointments. Providers have also been backed up as they coped with a flood of COVID-19 patients.
“Even as the pandemic continues, it’s important for everyone to remember that COVID-19 is not the only risk to health,” said study author Dr. Preeti Malani. “It’s important to make sure we are taking care of all the health needs of older adults, including care that may have been disrupted.”
If you’ve been putting off recommended or routine medical care, contact your health care provider to make an appointment. And get your vaccine. That will help keep everyone safe—and, the study authors found, vaccinated seniors are more likely to keep up with other health care, as well.