The University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging (NPHA), conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, polled 2,072 older adults on how they were faring during the early months of quarantine. As it happens, the team had performed a poll on senior social connections during October 2018, so they were able to compare the results from the two time periods. Among their findings:
“The change we see in these measures in less than two years is truly remarkable,” says the poll’s director, Dr. Preeti Malani, who has training in geriatrics and infectious diseases. “The use of technology to bridge the gap, and the importance of keeping up healthy routines like exercise, sleep, a balanced diet and getting outside will no doubt continue to be important in the months ahead.”
The team reminds everyone to reach out to older relatives, friends and neighbors, to help them avoid social isolation even as they continue to practice physical isolation. For example, the AARP, who partnered in the poll, offers tools for safe social outlets (https://connect2affect.org).
“Past studies have shown that prolonged isolation has a profound negative effect on health and wellbeing—as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” notes AARP’s Alison Bryant, Ph.D. “It’s not surprising that older adults reported more loneliness since the pandemic began, particularly those who live alone. We need to continue finding ways to connect and engage with one another throughout this public health crisis.”