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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 31  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 168-171  Table of Contents     

Older adult life in COVID-19 pandemic: Focus on social isolation, loneliness, and minimization of risks

Department of Psychology, University of Allahabad, Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Submission21-Nov-2020
Date of Acceptance11-Oct-2021
Date of Web Publication03-Feb-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Priyaranjan Maral
Department of Psychology, University of Allahabad, Prayagraj - 211 002, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ipj.ipj_219_20

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At the moment of worldwide lockdown with the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), older adult life bangs up with lots of changes such as stagnation in life, abuses, or violence (e.g., physical, emotional, sexual, and neglect). Older adults are feeling and experiencing more deprivation of social connectedness in a self-isolating environment. When there is a need for solidarity worldwide, COVID-19 is escalating stigmatization and discrimination against older adult populations. For this reason, we are particularly interested/accentuated more on the isolation life and loneliness lifestyles of older adults residing inside the four walls of their houses. In addition, emphasis is also given on different approaches of 4 R's such as reinoculate, remove, restore, and resilience for minimization of impact of COVID-19 among older adults. However, the cultural differences and societal values also played a major role in minimization of mental health challenges and illnesses during lockdown in Western and Eastern societies. The “We-ness” of collectivistic culture of Eastern societies brings more “Wellness” for older adult mental health. On the other hand, the “I-ness” of individualistic culture of Western societies brings only “Illness” for the older adult population. Still, many countries are facing a second or third wave of COVID-19, which are worsening the situation more for the older adult population. With aging and social isolation in pandemic, older adults' well-being can be restored by developing healthy habits, involvement in religious activities, adopting natural healing techniques, and positive thinking toward the life.

Keywords: Coronavirus disease 2019, culture, discrimination, loneliness, mental health, natural healing, older adults, physical illness, social isolation, social values, violence

How to cite this article:
Maral P, Punetha D. Older adult life in COVID-19 pandemic: Focus on social isolation, loneliness, and minimization of risks. Ind Psychiatry J 2022;31:168-71

How to cite this URL:
Maral P, Punetha D. Older adult life in COVID-19 pandemic: Focus on social isolation, loneliness, and minimization of risks. Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Nov 27];31:168-71. Available from: https://www.industrialpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2022/31/1/168/337182

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a pandemic which incarcerates and quakes the entire human species with a fear of the spread of the virus. COVID-19 pandemic has had enormous power and higher capacity to influence everyone's living styles/social life/family relationships/work. It is like an uninvited sightseer (i.e., COVID-19) stayed for an indefinite time period. Human beings are active social creatures, living on the Earth for a long time, and it is difficult for them to live in isolation. For survival of the human race, social connections are a vital process across the lifespan. Human beings begin their journey of life with personal attachment with their mother and end it with social connections. In addition, a human is born helpless, vocal without speech, and needing care from caring person/persons who are committed to care for him. This clearly indicates that human beings are social creatures, and it is hard for them to be isolated from other human beings.[1] Since December 2019 with the spread of coronavirus, old people are advised to stay home, be safe, and make appropriate distance with people. As older adults are not too active often, but for a change and relaxation, they really want to go outside. Nonetheless, this restriction made them miserable and experienced a sense of loneliness, emptiness, and craving to meet their fellow beings. Older people are more susceptible and vulnerable to get infection compared to others. The most common behaviors of older people noticed all over the world are fear of death, tension, and depression. Social distancing, physical distancing, quarantine, lockdown, and isolation terms originated in a pandemic that brought not only a loneliness and internment lifestyles but also an unprecedented fear and uncertainty among older people. They are not too habitual to live an isolated lifestyle with deprivation of social connectedness, which further triggers an imbalance in their social and mental homeostasis.

   Social Isolation, Loneliness, and Violence in Coronavirus Disease 2019 Top

Importantly, social isolation and loneliness are major mental health issues that emerge out as a curse for older people aged 60 years or above. With aging, they experience more acquaintances with loneliness/isolation/health risks/mental health issues. First, social isolation can be defined as distancing an individual from a desired network of social interactions, relationships, and contacts with other persons of the community at a broader level. Alternatively, loneliness acts as a catalyst for the growth of psychological and physical health problems in older people. “Loneliness” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word “ana” meaning “alone” (i.e., lack of companionship). During the COVID-19, older people are facing an amalgamation of four types of loneliness such as social, situational, chronic, and emotional, which make them difficult to find a meaning in their lives along with a subjective negative feeling related to the lack of social network.

From the time of COVID-19, a high upsurge of violence/abuse cases has been reported against the children, girls, women, and older people. However, in case of older people, one out of six people exposed/experienced the abuse or violence.[2],[3] A research study found that distancing from society is a “serious public health concern” that leads to adverse impacts on mental health.[4] A higher number of cases of depression and anxiety were found in socially detached older people.[5] Correspondingly, the onset of eighth stage (integrity vs. despair) of Erik Erikson of psychosocial development is prompted by major changes in life events such as physical abuse, family separation, loss of beloved, retirement, financial exploitation, bad health, low mobility, and psychological and emotional abuse, which are too responsible for social isolation and loneliness among older people.[6] With the technological advancement, a drastic societal change befell in people's life, which comprised less cohesiveness and greater engagements in gadgets, which in turn has created a higher level of an environment of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness for older people.[7]

   Psychophysical Sign and Symptoms in Coronavirus Disease 2019 Top

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine[8] and the National Institute on Aging,[9] growing rate of death, physical illnesses, and mental health problems are the negative outcomes of social isolation and loneliness. The epidemiology of COVID-19 is not yet too much clear, but death rates are quite high among older people who have comorbidities of physical illnesses (i.e., obesity, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney disease and obstructive pulmonary disease, and so on) and mental health issues (like cognitive decline, stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, and so on).[10],[11],[12]

Overall, age-related illnesses cause the death of around 1 lakh people each day all over the world. Moreover, the death rate of older people surges severely in COVID-19 pandemic.[13] Different countries have a varied number of mortality rates of older people like 80% in China and 95% in Europe (aged 60 years or more), and 80% in the U.S. (aged 64+ years).[14] In China, based on a case series involving 72,314 patients infected by the virus, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the death rate was 14.8% for patients aged ≥80 years and 8% for those aged 70–79 years, while it was 75% for persons aged ≥50 years.[15] In the U. S., the COVID-19 death rate has been reported 8 out of 10 among older people with 65 years of age or more. Older people with 85+ years of age have higher hospitalizations (31%–70%) and death rates (10%–27%) than 65–84 years older people (i.e., 31%–59% hospitalization and 4%–11% death rates). In addition, older people below 85 + years have higher admission in the intensive care unit (11%–31%) than 6%–29% of older people above 85 + years.[16] As stated by the United Nations World Population Aging, the expected 56% growth in life expectancy rate of people with 60 + age has exploded from 901 million to 1.4 billion in 2030 globally. Furthermore, the increasing rate of loneliness and poor health contributed more to the mortality rate of the 60+ years older adult population.[17] As per the report, some developing countries did not provide full access to life-saving essential health services to older people because of poverty, lack of infrastructure, and aging discrimination. However, declining immunity/physical or mental health/physiological changes with aging is a large detriment for older people in COVID-19 pandemic. Owing to fragile immunity system, they are more susceptible to get multiple disorders/illnesses rapidly.[18],[19]

   Approaches to Diminish Impact of Coronavirus Disease 2019 Top

With the enactment of lockdown, the prevalence rate of mental health issues and suicidal ideation is escalating drastically as reported by the WHO.[20] Therefore, one must work on 4 R's concept, i.e., reinoculate (i.e., immunize from natural healing of holistic treatments such as meditation, yoga, and Ayurveda),[21] remove (i.e., discrimination, stigmatization, and violence), restore, and resilience (i.e., competence, coping, connectedness, and control) for physical and mental health of older people. “Being in community, there, is a medicine” is the second preeminent approach to deal with older people's issues. In pandemic, too much “I-ness” leads to “Illness,” whereas more “We-ness” approach leads to “Wellness” of older people in society. In social exclusion, isolation, and loneliness circumstances, there should be more Innercise with exercise for the well-being of older people. The interdependent self of older adults in Eastern countries made people feel less loneliness, helplessness, depression, and stress level in comparison to the independent self of Western countries. People in Western countries considered the restrictions (i.e., of COVID-19) of staying at home and making social distance as infringement of their personal rights. Societal values and norms are ingrained in Eastern countries' people's lives. Because of this, they see lockdowns or restrictions as a normal part of their daily routine. However, people in Western countries raised their voices against the restrictions on their freedom of movement in public places.[22],[23] Healthy practices, cultural values, belief systems, advanced technology, humorous conversations, religious and meditative practices, yoga, conscious breathing, animal assisted therapy, and natural healing can help older adults cope with stress, agony, despondency, and helplessness. Furthermore, they can use the introspection method to learn about their inner selves and work on unresolved conflicts that arise as a result of isolation and loneliness. In addition, the oriental cultures believe in searching their souls and supreme power. People all over the world who have strong faith in God and involved in other religious activities feel less stress under all kinds of circumstances.[24] This is how the problem of social isolation and loneliness in older adults would be solved by adopting the abovementioned life savior approaches.

   Conclusion Top

To summarize the unprecedented circumstances of COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation and loneliness serve as important factors for the development of violence and mental and physical health problems among older people. As a result of aging, sedentary behavior and multiple illnesses or disorders require more primary care, connectedness than ever with the social environment in lockdown. Even without any inoculation of COVID-19, the spread of the virus among older people can be slowed down through prohibition of actions, but it costs more in terms of mental health issues. Thus, in order to make connections with others, there is a need for a principle of solidarity, which must be incorporated in between social health workers, caregivers, and non-governmental organization to protect the vulnerable population of older adults in a pandemic situation.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

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