Older adults always need social connection, but they need it now more than ever. The novel coronavirus brings with it unprecedented fear and uncertainty. Vulnerable seniors need help. With face-to-face encounters discouraged, our society must develop creative strategies to help them connect.
As professors at the University of Washington, which is near the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, we study aging and the health concerns of older adults. There are a number of reasons they are more vulnerable: Those over 65 typically have more chronic conditions than younger people. An aging immune system makes it harder to fight off diseases, infections and viruses. Recoveries are usually slower and more complicated. Older adults – perhaps living alone, on a fixed income, no longer driving, unfamiliar with using public transportation, and with undiagnosed or poorly managed depression – might already be socially isolated. For millions of them, the risk of COVID-19 may amplify already-existing problems.
With that in mind, here are some ways to safely connect during this crisis with older family members, friends and neighbors.