The Profound Impact of COVID on Seniors

Members News

COVID has undoubtedly impacted all of us in many ways. Whether it be economic woes caused by permanent job loss or temporary furlough, inability to visit family members, spending less time with our friends, or visiting our favorite restaurant, we have all been affected in one way or another.

The impact on our seniors has been even more devastating. In a recent article by Marcia Ory and Matthew Smith of Texas A&M Center for Population Health and Aging, CDC safety guidelines to self-isolate have put seniors at greater risk for a myriad of health-related conditions such as decline in cognitive functioning, a feeling of isolation and despair leading to depression and anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

Results of a National Poll of 2,000 adults aged 50 to 80, conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, 56% said they felt isolated from others, double the 27% in 2018. According to John Piette, Ph.D , professor at UM, “as the pandemic continues, it will be critical to pay attention to how well we as a society support the social and emotional needs of older adults”. Nearly 75% of those polled said their mental health was fair or poor, and they felt isolated. The use of technology to connect appears to be a double-edged sword, with those who use social media and video chat being more likely to say they felt isolated.

Thankfully, organizations like Telespond Senior Services, are trying to address the issue of senior isolation through programs designed to help those most in need. Since 1974, Telespond has operated the federally-sponsored Senior Companion Program, which is available to volunteers 55 and over who can serve a minimum of 15 hours per week.  They help fellow seniors live fuller, more independent lives, helping soothe feelings of loneliness and isolation.  Senior companions visit income-eligible seniors twice per week for four hours, helping with household duties, preparing lunches, and providing much needed companionship. Our seniors and their families have reported improved mental outlook, increased appreciation of the opportunity for social interaction, and improved performance with activities of daily living (ADL’s).

Our fully staffed senior daycare offers a variety of activities, games, exercise and social interaction in a home setting, staffed by qualified caregivers, nurses, and therapists. Transportation is also provided, and clients can choose the number of hours per week through our flexible scheduling format. Interested families can take a tour and meet the staff. The daycare is open 5 days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., allowing clients to interact, engage, and participate in fun activities, while providing respite for their families.

Telespond typically serves individuals 60 and over including, but not exclusive to the following: Individuals who are physically or cognitively impaired and unable to perform their activities of daily living (ADL’s) independently, those with chronic health issues that require medical supervision, and adults newly discharged from hospitals rehabilitation centers, or home health.

We provide the services that allow families to keep their beloved, elderly relatives in the comfort of their homes for extended periods, thus delaying or avoiding placement in more costly alternatives such as retirement homes.

It is incumbent upon us to help our seniors connect and engage throughout this public health crisis and beyond. We owe it to them!

Joseph J. Grilli, MPA, DPA
President and CEO
Telespond Senior Services, Inc.
j.grilli@telespond.org