Mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it. People across the world have been asked to stay in their homes to prevent the spread of the virus. There is great uncertainty around what the future looks like and for many, this can lead to stress, anxiety and feelings of loneliness. These feelings may be exacerbated for older adults who may be at higher risk for infection, especially those with severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease. The good news is different strategies that include self-care and technology have been shown to be effective in improving mental health and wellbeing and may be of use in times like these. 

Many older adults suffer from loneliness and these feelings may be heightened during this challenging time. Older adults who live alone and have fewer friends or family members may experience greater loneliness. Technology has been an important tool for helping individuals stay connected despite being physically separated. Evidence suggests that some technologies can facilitate social interactions that keep older adults connected to their loved ones, reducing feelings of loneliness. But these technologies are sometimes difficult to use, especially for individuals who have cognitive impairment and have trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions.

There are a few self-care strategies that older adults can implement to positively benefit their mental health and wellbeing. Exercising at home or walking outdoors (while keeping a safe distance) can provide an uplifting mood boost. Mindfulness practices including meditation may also have positive effects for older adults. Evidence has also shown that sharing personal stories and memories can help reduce feelings of loneliness and depression. A phone call or video chat with a friend or family member can be good for the soul! 

We have compiled some of our resources on mental health and wellbeing to help you and your loved ones navigate challenging times. Now more than ever, it is important to check-in with friends and family members (by phone or through means such as email in-place of in-person visits) to see how they are doing. 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 1-833-456-4566 toll free (In QC: 1-866-277-3553), 24/7 or visit www.crisisservicescanada.ca.

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DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of these blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations such as social distancing and frequent hand washing. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with current social distancing recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.

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