Elderly are the worst sufferers during Covid-19 Lock down – Agewell Survey

Bhubaneswar: Elderly are the worst affected among all during current lock down situation due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. It was revealed by a latest survey, conducted by Agewell Foundation, an NGO, working for the welfare and empowerment of older persons in the country since 1999. For the survey, 5000 older persons across the country were interacted over phone by Agewell volunteers in order to assess the impact of current lock down situation on their life. 

According to survey findings, 70% elderly were either already facing health complications or fearing to develop some medical complications due to current Covid-19 lock down restrictions. 

Other salient findings of the survey are as under;

  • 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 so far 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 Corona virus lock down. Among these elderly, 71% claimed that they are fearful of meeting anyone or to 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 / other family members 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 family members, admitted that lock down has helped in bridging the gap between generations. However, 55% do not agree with the view that life during lock down period has helped in bridging the inter-generational gaps.
  • During the lock down period, 52% elderly respondents claimed that their interpersonal relationship with family members particularly their own children has further deteriorated due to hardly any communication, 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 because most of the younger people are busy with their cell phones or computers. 
  • 31% claimed that financial dependence of elders on family members 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 selfish 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 others for their basic 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) / shouted at / misbehaved with / threatened / tortured / neglected / isolated / marginalized.

Speaking on the occasion, 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 Corona virus, 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.
  • Announce 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 specifically for elderly COVID-19 patients.
  • Release the 2nd 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.
  • 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