Population Health – Loneliness for Seniors 

Social health is important as mood plays a big part in motivation and personal care. During an international time of self-isolation and strict social parameters, how do you stay alert, engaged, and in good spirits? Additionally, how do you give back to those in need, supporting others, and ensuring a better overall population health? 

Health and Loneliness

Before we jump into a pile of resources for keeping yourself occupied and connected, let’s take a look at the effects of isolation. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, social isolation contributes significantly to a range of health concerns as outlined in the following points. This is partly due to an increase in inactivity, and partly as a result of isolation itself. 

  1. Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.*
  2. Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.*
  3. Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.*
  4. Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.*

* National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25663

Health and Home Hobbies

Under National restrictions, the only space you have complete control over is your own. So it’s no surprise that home improvement projects, gardening, and crafting have jumped to the top of everyone’s list. The average polled homeowner spent $1,750 on DIY endeavors! You don’t need to be a MacGyver to build a new end table or spruce up your living room floors. To illustrate, here are some achievable ideas for in-home renovations:

  1. Paint your cabinets and brighten up your storage spaces
  2. Convert that old dresser into a kitchen island to make room for all the new recipes you’ve been trying
  3. Add some whimsy to your yard with an outdoor chalkboard wall for a game night with your neighbors (at a safe distance of course)

DIY projects aren’t the only avenue. With a never ending stream of cooking videos and online courses, there’s never been a better time to dust off your aprons and spice up your days with some fun new recipes and flavors. 

Sign up for a virtual cooking class or enroll in a Senior Education Program. Truly, your local university, community center, or library are great resources. Go the extra mile and grow your own herbs and vegetables! If you don’t have the outdoor space, you can cheat with an idea like these!

Health and Isolation: Enjoying the Downtime

You may not always feel like doing something. Sometimes, stopping to smell the roses still rings true even when you have nothing but time. Start a nightly routine and revisit some of your favorite memories with old radio stories through modern podcasts. Have your family listen as well at the same time. Then have a video chat afterwards to talk about it and enjoy the stories together.

Other “rainy day” pandemic ideas:

  1. Complete a puzzle
  2. Learn to play chess (you can even play against yourself for an added challenge)
  3. Practice drawing, your pet or potted plants make perfect subjects

Technology: Virtual Classes for Seniors

For a lot of seniors, isolation isn’t a new challenge brought on by COVID-19 – it’s already established in their daily lives. The difference now, is in the number of available resources, like virtual technology classes for seniors. These classes are often taught by other seniors through outreach programs, schools, and funded programming.

  1. Learn how to use your smartphone; 
  2. change the text settings to a larger font size
  3. operate your phone’s camera for some great at home photo sessions
  4. set reminders for your medicine schedule
  5. send messages, participate in group chats and video calls

… and all of the other modern conveniences provided by smart devices. 

Many seniors have even taken to blogging to share their experiences and pass down their knowledge to their friends and family. Websites like wix.com, wordpress.com, and squarespace make it easy to create a blog – and of course, there are virtual classes for this as well. 

Togetherness: Companionship and Staying Connected

Not everyone is isolated with a loved one, many seniors are going through this experience alone. As a result, there has been a great spike in pet adoptions but also with therapy animals and service dogs. As isolation is proven to have a deteriorating effect on personal health, a service dog might be a great solution for many individuals. There have been several studies over the years showing that population health improves when communities embrace pets and pet-friendly lifestyles. Visit the ADA National Network for more information and resources.

Togetherness has been the main theme throughout this pandemic with technology as our collective aid, with an emphasis on staying connected but also on staying safe. The resulting resources are impressive but sometimes finding them can be tricky, especially if technology isn’t your first language.

Population Health: Uniting Physicians and Patients  

Primavera offers physicians the ability to stay connected with the senior population through this cutting-edge technology called Connect Telehealth. Knowing that most people in the senior age group are not necessarily tech savvy, the Telehealth platform was made specifically for healthcare and to be easy-to-use. No application download necessary for the patients. These important details ensure a better patient population health. 

The entire Primavera healthcare software suite is able to simply collect the patient information to expedite care and create ease through establishing communication with all medical providers. Patients can receive help to connect with their general practitioner, specialists, and mental health professionals when they cannot be seen in person. Help is just a few screen taps away when needed most. Reach out today for more information about any of the Primavera products like Connect Telehealth, Population Data Analytics, and Case Management.

Adrian EsquivelPopulation Health – Loneliness for Seniors