It’s only been just a little over a year since news about COVID-19 first hit the press. For many of us, however, everything in the pre-COVID era feels more like a lifetime ago. So many things have changed without warning, taking most, if not all of us, by surprise.
But have you ever wondered how it would be like to transition to a post-COVID era after more than a year of having to live under quarantine?
Just Imagine having to get used to the new reality of not wearing face masks and face shields ever again. Or switching back to interacting with family and friends in person rather than online. Imagine finally having to come to terms with the reality of how many people we’ve lost to the virus after more than a year of battling with the pandemic.
There’s just going to be so many changes to get used to. But if there’s one demographic in our population who’s going to have a harder time adjusting compared to most of us, it’s going to be the elderly population.
Since they’ve had little to no chance of going outside during the pandemic, it can be a shock having to go outside again for the first time in a long time. And since COVID-19 has restricted much of our physical activities, it has also had an effect on the health of the elderly, making it even more difficult for them to return to their pre-pandemic routine.
If someone you love belongs to this demographic, what can you do to make the transition easier? Below are 3 tips that you may find helpful.
Adjusting to yet another “new normal”
Tip # 1: Don’t try to speed up the transition
Adapting to changes requires time. Lots of it. And more so when it comes to the elderly population. People generally have a hard time coping with sudden changes, and our reaction to the first few lockdowns last year is proof to this fact. But with so many changes to adapt to during the post-COVID world, elderly individuals may find the transition extra challenging.
Keep in mind that for more than a year, we’ve had very limited interaction with those close to us. And for most of the elderly, the only connection they’ve had with their family and friends has been over the Internet. So when the community finally opens up and starts to allow social gatherings, help the elderly to gradually re-connect with their social network.
If you notice that an elderly member in your family is having a hard time doing a ‘reset’, remember not to rush the process. Things will fall into place at their own pace, so don’t try to hurry him or her into fully adapting to their changed circumstances. As government restrictions are gradually lifted in your area, try to also gradually incorporate the normal aspects of life back into the life of the elderly person.
For example, you can slowly reintroduce in-person medical appointments and family gatherings. You can then reintroduce get-togethers with close friends, all while following whatever minimum safety measures may be set by the government for the vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Remember to go through this transition gradually. This will help the elderly feel safer, especially if he or she still worries about catching the virus.
Tip # 2: Let the elderly know that it’s okay to feel anxious and stressed
Shifting back to pre-COVID routines can bring a new wave of stress and anxiety for the older segment of our population. This is normal, no matter what our age or gender may be.
If you are assisting someone in the elderly population, keep in mind that stress at their age can be destructive to their health, so make sure to help them acknowledge the tension that they feel rather than encourage them to just stay strong and hide their pain and stress from the rest.
One of the best ways to minimize the stress that naturally comes with change is by telling a trusted friend about how you feel. The same holds true for the elderly. Try to encourage them to talk to you about how they’re coping with the changes. Show them empathy. Put yourself in their shoes and try to imagine how life must have been like for them all these months where they’ve had limited to no physical contact with their family and friends.
Think of how hard it must have been for them to hear about the loss of good friends or family members and not even having the chance to grieve with the other bereaved members in person. Be kind and give them the space they need to adapt to the new set of changes.
Remember, mental health is crucial to a person’s overall wellbeing, and all the more so to those who are already living their golden years.
Tip # 3: Help the elderly stay physically active
Research shows that regular physical activity is another effective way to keep the body healthy and help combat stress. When we engage in physical activity, our bodies release endorphins, also known as the happy hormone, and this helps boost our overall mood. So helping the elderly stay physically active while staying can help lift their spirits despite feelings of isolation.
Simple activities such as doing a small jog or walking around the house can do much to help the elderly stay fit as well. This is also a great way to prepare them for post-COVID life when they’ll have the freedom to move around and engage in more physical activity.
Dealing with the pandemic is stressful, but it doesn’t have to feel impossible, especially for the most vulnerable individuals in the population. So let’s do what we can to help them adapt to all the changes we have yet to deal with. The better prepared they are for the days and months ahead, the easier they’ll be able to make the transition to a life without COVID-19.