Since the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, various studies have revealed related issues that concern social well-being. For instance, social distancing is a critical strategy for avoiding the spread of some infectious diseases. The epidemiology of COVID-19 reveals that different groups in the population are affected differently by the virus. Older people face an increased risk of physical health due to underlying health conditions, weak immunity, and social isolation, which have been aggravated by social distancing.
Older people are at more risk regarding their physical health due to underlying health conditions, weak immunity, and social isolation and exclusion. With COVID-19, the three conditions aggravate the implications of infections (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Since a patient’s immunity is already compromised by the three factors, it is seldom for them to combat COVID-19. According to the CDC, underlying health conditions include asthma, diabetes, kidney diseases, obesity, liver diseases, cardiac complications, and immunocompromising health issues (2020). Also, WHO explains that the underlying health conditions are most likely to increase with age (Risk factors of ill health, 2020). Therefore, older people are likely to have many underlying health conditions, which predispose them to a higher risk of physical illness.
Besides, increased underlying health concurs with the weakening of the immunity of older adults. Some studies have found that aging is a direct cause of decreased immunity in persons over 65 years of age (Montecino-Rodriguez, Berent-Maoz & Dorshkind, 2013). As one age, the production of B and T cells and mature lymphocytes decrease significantly, weakening immunity. The CDC explains that over a long time of treatment of health issues, the body’s immunity decreases (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Hence, older people are likely to have a history of many treatment cases, which, together with reduced production of immunity cells, increase the risk to their physical health.
Social isolation and exclusion are a critical factor which increases the risk of physical illness. Both social isolation and exclusion are objectively alienation from social contact (Clay, 2020). Most people in isolated objectively into correction facilities, or nursing facilities for various reasons. According to Cay, isolation and loneliness are mostly used in the same context, but loneliness is subjective (2020). That is, one may feel lonely with or without social contact. It is a feeling of sadness or anxiety for not being socially connected. For instance, a person may not be able to converse with people of a different language; hence they feel lonely. Also, the National Institute on Aging reports that 28% of older people in the US are isolated from living in loneliness (National Institute on Aging, 2019). Hence, most people facing the implications of social isolation and loneliness are old.
Furthermore, studies have found that both isolation and loneliness lead to adverse impacts on a person’s health. That is, the more a person is excluded from social contact, the more they are likely to have ill health. A link between social isolation and physical health shows that older people identified as lonely or isolated have an elevated risk of poor physical health (Malcolm, Frost & Cowie, 2019). In isolation, people are likely to receive social support regarding medical care, psychological care, or nutritional care. Lack of medical intervention or adequate prevention predisposes older adults to severe physical illness. They are likely to suffer psychological distress such as anxiety and depression, due to separation from their loved ones (Clay, 2020). Also, isolated people are likely to engage in poor dietary habits, hence suffering malnutrition and related health complications.
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Currently, the social distancing concept prohibits people from interacting in close physical proximities due to COVID-19 has aggravated social isolation. Most senior citizens feel isolated from their immediate caregivers. For instance, few people are likely to visit their old relatives in nursing homes to reduce social contact. According to the Institute of Healthcare Policy and Innovation, older people in nursing homes are lonely than ever in their lives since caregivers must maintain social distance, and few family members are allowed to visit them (Malani, 2020). As a result, there is increased loneliness among older adults due to COVID-19. Besides, some essential care services are challenging to offer with the social distancing rules. For instance, people with umpired sight or hearing require other people to come onto proximity to see or hear them. However, social distancing does not allow such contacts since they increase the chances of contracting the coronavirus. While social distancing is preventing older people from contacting COVID-19, severe physical health illnesses related to isolations and loneliness have begun to surface as reported by (Malani, 2020). Hence, social distancing is a risk factor for the health of older adults.
To sum up, underlying health conditions, weak immunity, and social isolation increase the risk of physical health to older adults. Underlying health conditions and weak immunity make older people more susceptible to illnesses. Social isolation cuts off people from their immediate social world. Studies have shown that it has adverse effects on a person’s health. Currently, social distancing has worsened social isolation and is likely to cause more related health issues.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Retrieved 25 May 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/groups-at-higher-risk.html
Clay, R. (2020). COVID-19 isn’t just a danger to older people’s physical health. Retrieved 25 May 2020, from https://www.apa.org/news/apa/2020/03/covid-19-danger-physical-health
Malani, P. (2020). The impact of social distancing on older adults, past findings from national poll offer insights. Retrieved 25 May 2020, from https://ihpi.umich.edu/news/impact-social-distancing-older-adults-past-findings-national-poll-offer-insights
Malcolm, M., Frost, H., & Cowie, J. (2019). Loneliness and social isolation causal association with health-related lifestyle risk in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis protocol. Systematic Reviews, 8(1). doi: 10.1186/s13643-019-0968-x
Montecino-Rodriguez, E., Berent-Maoz, B., & Dorshkind, K. (2013). Causes, consequences, and reversal of immune system aging. Journal Of Clinical Investigation, 123(3), 958-965. doi: 10.1172/jci64096
National Institute on Aging. (2019). Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks. Retrieved 25 May 2020, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks
Risk factors of ill health among older people. (2020). Risk factors of ill health among older people. Retrieved 25 May 2020, from http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/Life-stages/healthy-ageing/data-and-statistics/risk-factors-of-ill-health-among-older-people