Impact of COVID-19 lockdown situation on Older Persons
A Survey Report
In view of current lock down due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, Agewell Foundation has conducted a survey among older persons to assess the impact of lock down situation on their life. For the survey 5000 older persons were interacted over phone by Agewell volunteers spread across the country during the 3rd week of April 2020.
Salient findings of the survey are as under;
· 70% elderly were either already facing health complications or fearing to develop some medical complications due to current Covid-19 lock down restrictions.
· Approx. 55% elderly respondents asserted that current lock down situation is affecting their health condition adversely. 75% of such elderly patients said that they missed the Healing Touch of their doctor, as they could not visit them personally. 43% of such elderly patients were undergoing regular pathological check-ups, and they have to avoid these check-ups all of a sudden.
· 25% elderly said that the lock down has not affected their current health condition and approx. 5% elderly said that their health condition is improving due to clean environment resulting from lock down rules.
· According to elderly, access to regular medicines / physiotherapy was most critical health challenge being faced by them, as 44% respondents termed this as most critical health challenge before them.
· Anxiety, sleeplessness, lack of appetite and lack of physical activity was termed most critical health challenge according to 34% respondents.
· During the survey, more than a half (approx. 54%) elderly admitted that their social life has been disturbed due to Coronavirus lock down. Among these elderly, 71% claimed that they fear of meeting anyone or interact with anyone nowadays.
During the survey, while interacting with older persons, volunteers observed that majority of older persons look depressed due to this new phenomenon. They expressed sense of apprehension, resentment, anxiety and even anger while talking over phone.
· During the survey, it was found that 54% elderly respondents were staying with their younger family members (children/grand-children, etc.) while 33% were living with their respective spouse and 13% respondents were living all alone during lock down period.
· 45% of respondents, who were staying at home with their children/grandchildren and other younger family members, admitted that lock down has helped in bridging the gap between generations. However, 55% were not agreed with the view that life during lock down period has helped in bridging the intergenerational gaps.
· During the lock down period, 66% elderly respondents claimed that their interpersonal relationship has distressed due to conflict of personal ego, interests and attitude.
· According to 23% respondents, popularity of modern information technology gadgets is the most responsible factor for their disturbed interpersonal relationships.
· 31% claimed that high dependence of younger family members on elders is the primary reason for bitter relationship.
· 20% elderly claimed that they have no / less space for themselves due to 24-hr home stay of other members, which is their primary concern and affecting their relationship.
· 15% elderly reportedly admitted that neglect of their special needs in old age is most responsible factor
· 11% respondents said that they are highly dissatisfied due to self-centric attitude of younger family members
· Interestingly, 59% of elderly, staying with their other family members, claimed that they still feel psychological loneliness / isolation even amid their family members. Primary reasons for this situation were – neglect by younger family members, unsympathetic relationship, discriminatory behavior against elderly, rising frustration levels, etc.
· 65% elderly complained that due to lock down situation they have lost their independence, self-esteem and even dignity to some extent, as they have to depend upon other for their needs.
· For 38% elderly, their unfulfilled expectations are now dominating their relationships.
· Almost every second elderly person (51% respondents), claimed that their human rights are at stake during lock down period, as they are being mistreated/harassed (mentally or physically)/ threatened/tortured/neglected/isolated/marginalized.
Speaking about the survey findinds Himanshu Rath, Founder Chairman of Agewell Foundation said, “Due to the current Covid-19 lock down, most of the older persons are struggling and facing a peculiar situation in their life. Elderly are finding themselves at the receiving end, those who are living alone have practical problems and those who are living with families, have psychological issues. Under current tension of Coronavirus, elderly are getting depressed due to lack of assured medical & financial support, social interaction and lack of independence / self-respect / dignity.” Rath further added, “Government should extend a helping hand to old people by announcing certain packages, exclusively for Old People.”
Survey recommends that the government should –
· launch a Helpline for Older Persons
· announce benefits for older persons like guaranteed subsidy/loans and GST waiver for businesses focused on senior citizen – food, accommodation, care and medical needs
· provide subsidy or loans and support for Assisted Living or senior care Homes
· set up care facilities or homes for elderly COVID-19 patients
· release the 3nd tranche of Rs. 6000 assistance under Kisan Samman Nidhi
· raise awareness among the illiterate urban and rural elderly and undertake special efforts to explain & demonstrate safety measures against Covid19
· set up special PDS distribution points for elderly
· distribute readymade package of essential items (rice/wheat dal, onions, masala, oil, potato)
· create awareness about the senior care sector and frame policies for faster development of the senior care industry
· create a uniform set of guidelines that can be implemented across the sector that will leverage home healthcare workers for monitoring of elderly
· provide essential healthcare services like medical insurance in a safe and secure environment for elderly
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Agewell Foundation is a not-for-profit NGO which has been working for the welfare and empowerment of older persons of India since 1999. Agewell has set up a two-tier network of over 7500 primary and 80000 secondary volunteers spread across 640 districts of India and interacts with over 25000 older persons on daily basis through its volunteers’ network. Recognizing the work being done by Agewell Foundation ECOSOC has granted Special Consultative Status to Agewell Foundation at United Nations. It is associated with Department of Public Information, United Nations (UN-DPI). Agewell has been member of Working Groups and Steering Committees on Social Sector of Planning Commission of India since 2002. Agewell Foundation has also been empanelled by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in National CSR Hub under the categories of Elderly, Research, Advocacy and Support Services.