When you become too comfortable with your routine after being closed off for a year, you may be avoiding getting back out there. Senior Services wants its clients to feel safe and comfortable attending programs again that will help them re-connect with others.
By Angela Mulka
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the senior population with challenges uniquely difficult to their demographic. An example of this is the isolation of older adults who rely on regular medical care. While learning how to cope with isolation is important, the need to rebuild social connectivity is real.
“In general, folks in senior facilities are being isolated more than the general public due to health concerns,” Deanna Mangieri, the specialty medical director of geriatrics at Atrium Health told Atrium Health in a coronavirus update. This has made it nearly impossible for loved ones to visit family members who might be in an assisted living facility or nursing facility.
That causes all kinds of problems and can lead people to feel almost agoraphobic, which is a fear of leaving the house, according to the chair of the department of psychiatry at UNC-Chapel Hill, Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody.
So how do you approach reentering a post-COVID world?
Start small and know your boundaries, Dr. Meltzer-Brody told ABC 11 news.
In addition to starting small, experts say to brace for some tough conversations, set boundaries for yourself and most important, take your time. Ease yourself into things like participating in activities, classes or anything that seems risky.
The CDC reports that adults 65 and older who received both doses of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines showed a 94% reduced risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization. An evaluation was conducted at 24 hospitals in 14 states under real-world conditions from January to March 2021.
“As nervous as we may be about it, we can prepare ourselves psychologically to be with others again,” clinical psychologist and graduate school professor Michelle Pearce told the Baltimore Sun. Below are some tips for a smooth transition back into society from Pearce.
- Go at your own pace. Your pace may be different from your friends, co-workers, and family members and that is OK. Our brains feel less anxious when we have a sense of control over our lives. So, to the extent you can, decide how you want to reintegrate and at what pace.
- Imagine before doing. If there are activities or situations you feel anxious just thinking about doing, try imagining doing them first. “Imaginable exposure” is a technique used in therapy to help with phobias that prepares our mind with the feeling state we desire before we venture into the physical environment.
- Be selective. You may not want to engage in all of the activities you once did. Grant yourself permission not to pick everything back up, even when it is safe to do so.
- Be patient. There will likely be ups and downs in your reintegration process. Remember, our brains are quick to learn threats and slow to unlearn them. So, give yourself time.
- Be open. Although we have all been dreaming of getting back to pre-pandemic life, it does not mean we are going to feel only positive emotions. Likely you will also feel anxiety, anger, guilt, grief and a host of other emotions as you begin to reengage with your life and your loved ones. We have been through a collective trauma. It will take some time to recover.
In addition, some safer activities to choose from after you have been fully vaccinated include: visiting inside a home or private setting without a mask with other fully vaccinated people of any age, traveling domestically or internationally without quarantining after travel and more, according to an article updated in June 2021 by the CDC.
One of Senior Services’ main battles is combating loneliness in the senior population.
“We try to do absolutely anything that a person needs—whether it’s activities, meals or volunteering—just to keep people happy, active and to keep them from being lonely,” said Charlie Schwedler, Executive Director of Senior Services.
Loneliness can affect your health. You should be sure to let your doctor know if you are experiencing symptoms of loneliness or depression. Your doctor’s office can also help you identify resources like Senior Services that can help you make connections and feel better, according to the University of Michigan’s health system.
After the year we have all faced, we owe it to ourselves to begin enjoying life and the outside world again.
Get more information about the services and events offered by the agency—including a full schedule of events—at seniorservicesmidland.org. And, if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, find a vaccine.
1 No author. (2021). How Can We Help the Senior Population During the Coronavirus Pandemic? Atrium Health https://atriumhealth.org/dailydose/2020/04/30/how-can-we-help-the-senior-population-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic
2 Chapin, J. (2021, April 1) UNC psychiatrist provides tips on how to reenter a post-COVID world. ABC News 11 https://abc11.com/post-covid-meltzer-brody-psychiologist-after-19/10465303/
3 CDC (2021, May 7) Effectiveness of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Vaccines Against COVID-19 Among Hospitalized Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, January–March 2021. May 7, 2021. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7018e1.htm?s_cid=mm7018e1_e&ACSTrackingID=usCDC_921-DM55819&ACSTrackingLabel=MMWR%20Early%20Release%20-%20Vol.%2070%2C%20April%2028%2C%202021&deliveryName=usCDC_921-DM55819#F1_down
4 Pearce, M. (2021, April 1). Social reintegration: preparing for post-COVID life | COMMENTARY. Baltimore Sun. https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/op-ed/bs-ed-op-0404-covid-public-life-20210404-d23hacdoqfgy3jnqa4uiadkbwi-story.html
5 CDC (2021, April 2). What You Can Do Once You Have Been Fully Vaccinated. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/COVID-19-AfterVaccine.pdf
6 CDC (2021, June 11) How Do I Find a Covid-19 Vaccine? Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/How-Do-I-Get-a-COVID-19-Vaccine.html