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34% of the elderly population facing anxiety due to COVID-19 says Public Health and Ageing Expert

34% of the elderly population facing anxiety due to COVID-19 says Public Health and Ageing Expert

Professor of Public Health and Ageing at the University of the West Indies, Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer.

Photo Credit: Caribbean Community of Retired Persons

By: Shannekca Brown| Eastern Regional Correspondent

Manchester, Jamaica – Professor of Public Health and Ageing at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer says 34% of the elderly population are facing anxiety as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic.

She made the announcement during a Ministry of Health and Wellness COVID-19 Digital Conversation held at the Northern Caribbean University’s (NCU) Main Chapel on Wednesday, September 30, 2020.

According to Dr Eldemire Shearer, some seniors are still ‘making sense’ of these new normal and it’s implications on their age group.

“They’re feeling left out, they’re feeling isolated, they’re feeling alone and a couple of them said this doesn’t make sense.” Professor Shearer, who has been associated with the Senior Citizens’ Week since 1983, mentioned that the pandemic is the very first to affect Senior Citizens’ Week.

She mentioned that Senior Citizens no longer have gardens and yards, instead, some senior citizens are sitting and lying in beds, noting that 40% of seniors lived with a spouse and 60% live either alone or lived with someone.

Additionally, she encouraged the need for family and a need for people to support each other, noting that the importance of a balanced diet among the elderly population has changed.

“The tenants of chronic disease management are of course medication, but it’s equally diet and exercise which has taken some challenges as we keep people safe… but what is the diet at home when you are alone?”

In light of the restricted mobility on seniors, she added that a recent survey has shown that 20% to 22% of seniors had missed their health appointment and that was predominantly in the public sector.

However, Professor Shearer reassured the public that 71% of the seniors were very concerned about COVID, on the other hand, 20% of them said the guidelines were very difficult and if prolonged were going to be very challenging and they thought they were going to breakdown.

The Professor, who was connected to the discussion via zoom, shared some coping mechanisms to the seniors and the public at large.

“Stay at home but keep your doctors and clinic appointments, stay at home but make sure you do exercise, get up, walk around, go outside, stay connected.”

Considering Senior Citizens’ Week, the Ministry’s COVID-19 Digital Conversation focused on some guidelines for the elderly population and also included a discussion with Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, Regional Technical Director of the Southern Regional Health Authority, Dr Vitillicus Holder and Medical Officer of Health at SRHA, Dr Nadine Williams.

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