Older adults are especially vulnerable to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic—with higher risks of severe complications and death, and potentially greater difficulties accessing care and adapting to technologies such as telemedicine.
A viewpoint article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association notes that there’s also a concern that isolation during the pandemic could be more difficult for older individuals, which could exacerbate existing mental health conditions. Information gathered over the past several months suggests a much more nuanced picture, however.
- Recent studies indicate that older adults may be withstanding the mental health strains of the COVID-19 pandemic better than other age groups
- A combination of factors may contribute to this resiliency
- Access to technology—and the ability to use it—are likely key
“Over the spring and summer of 2020, we were struck by a number of individual studies from all over the world that reported a consistent theme: Older adults, as a group, appeared to be withstanding the strains on mental health from the pandemic better than all other age groups,” said lead author Ipsit Vahia, MD, medical director of McLean’s Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Services and the McLean Institute for Technology in Psychiatry. “In this article, we highlight some of these studies and discuss resilience in older adults and what factors may be driving it.”
Resilience may reflect an interaction among internal factors—such as an individual’s stress response, cognitive capacity, personality traits, and physical health—and external resources like social connections and financial stability.
For older adults experiencing isolation during the pandemic, having more meaningful relationships seems to be more important than having more interactions with others, and maintaining these relationships may require the use of technology to connect with loved ones.