Sometimes, it seems as if the whole world has been living under the cloud of coronavirus for years, not months. No matter who you are, what you do, or where you live, chances are COVID-19 has affected your daily life in some way.
But some populations have been affected more than others, and seniors, as the group most vulnerable to the virus and its worst outcomes, have perhaps been affected most of all.
Not only are those aged 50 or older at greater risk of contracting the disease and dying from it, but they’re also at risk due to the delay of preventative care, diagnostic testing, and required surgeries, procedures, and other treatments. This delayed care may simply be a matter of choice, with elderly patients reluctant to go to a clinic or hospital for fear of exposure to the virus. But delays in care are also happening as hospitals seek to ration finite resources in the face of this prolonged, and seemingly intensifying, crisis, which most hospitals should have been prepared to face if their leadership were better equipped. That makes it more important than ever for seniors to focus on cultivating optimal health at home.
Keep It Clean
Proper hygiene and sanitation, of course, are always important, especially for seniors, who may have less resistance to the germs, viruses, and bacteria that may be incubating on surfaces or aerosolized in the air. But, in the face of a global pandemic, meticulous hygiene is essential.
So keep your home stocked with disinfecting agents, such as rubbing alcohol and antibacterial soap. Ensure that particularly hazardous items, such as used bedsheets or personal hygiene items, are disposed of separately from typically household trash to avoid inadvertent contact or cross-contamination.
And even if you are isolating at home, it’s not a bad idea for everyone to mask up if a member of the household has had to be out in the community, especially if there is significant community spread.
You Are What You Eat
Just like hygiene, proper nutrition has always been important, but it’s especially so right now. Ensuring that you’re avoiding high fat, sugary foods and getting plenty of essential nutrients will protect against some of the greatest health risks you face as you age, from heart disease to cancer.
And, while you might miss your morning doughnut or your late night chips and dip, eating well is just going to make you feel better in general. Best of all, though, a diet rich in vitamins and minerals will also boost your immune system. And the healthier your immune system, the less vulnerable you will be to contracting the virus or facing its worst effects.
Just because you may be in lockdown doesn’t mean you get to lie around like a big old rutabaga — not if you’re looking to optimize your health, anyway. But you can still get the exercise you need without risking exposure to the virus.
Getting outside can be great for you, provided you keep your distance from other people. So take that daily walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air while you give your heart and lungs a nice workout.
In addition to more aerobic activities, like brisk walking or jogging, you should also try to incorporate resistance training into your exercise routine. This will help you build muscle mass and improve balance, coordination, and flexibility. And that can not only help you prevent falls, but it can also help protect you from potentially serious injury, such as a sprain or fracture if you do take a tumble.
Heart and Soul
Taking care of your health during lockdown is about more than just protecting your physical body. It’s also about nurturing your heart and mind. After all, this pandemic is taking its toll. People are anxious and lonely and afraid.
Under the best of conditions, isolation is a significant health risk, especially for seniors. But under pandemic conditions, it can be downright dangerous, upping your risk for substance abuse and mental illness.
So staying well also means doing all you can to stay peaceful, centered, and happy. That includes talking to your loved ones about what you’re going through during this difficult time. It means making sure that you have a way to connect with your loved ones each and every day, whether by telephone or, better still, video calls.
It also means knowing when to reach out for professional help. Thanks to telemedicine, you can even connect with a counselor or mental health professional privately and securely, right from your smartphone or computer.
Life in a pandemic isn’t easy, but it’s especially difficult when you are high risk. That’s why, now more than ever, if you are a senior, it is time to prioritize your health. And that includes everything from proper hygiene and nutrition to ample exercise and lots of good, old fashioned love and support!
Updated: September 2, 2020