Senior citizens have long been a group garnering the most concern during the coronavirus pandemic. They are typically much more susceptible to severe illness due to COVID-19 than those under the age of 65. They also tend to suffer most from a range of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart and liver disease, all of which can exacerbate everything from their chances of contracting the disease to complications during and after illness with it.
Most of us hope that life will go back to normal once a vaccine hits the markets in 2021, but that may not be the case for seniors. For now, it’s unclear how long the eventual vaccine will protect the body from infection. We may have to get vaccinated more than once, which could put some seniors at a disadvantage, especially if they suffer from limited mobility.
Seniors will still be worried about their health, even if the pandemic fizzles out some time next year. This could fundamentally change the way seniors live in the U.S. They will likely need to depend more on unfamiliar technology, virtual healthcare, and prevention practices in the years to come. Find out what else the future may have in store for seniors.
Seniors and the Rise of Telehealth
The coronavirus has led to a surge in demand for telehealth services. People would much rather contact their doctor over the internet than meet with them in person during a global pandemic.
However, seniors have been slow to adopt this technology in recent years. Before the pandemic, only 62% of people over the age of 75 used the internet and fewer than 28% were comfortable with social media, according to data from the Pew Research Center. However, the coronavirus is pushing seniors in a new direction.
Some providers, including Dr. Ronan Factora, a geriatrician at Cleveland Clinic, say they never saw a patient over the age of 60 via telemedicine before the pandemic, but now they expect a third of these visits will be digital going forward.
Seniors are looking for a more reliable, convenient way to keep in touch with providers. Logging onto the internet may have been an inconvenience in years past, but now it’s seen as a potential lifesaver.
Industry experts also predict that this will help seniors connect with more than one provider at a time. Instead of relying on just one doctor, seniors can quickly consult with lots of different specialists over the internet. Long-term care facilities and practices that cater to elderly patients are using this technology to increase efficiency. Instead of waiting for the patient to come to the exam room, they can quickly log on to visit the patient at home.
In addition, providers are turning to subtle remote devices as a way of monitoring the health of their patients. Many seniors may not like the idea of taking their own blood sugar or pressure several times a day. That’s why these devices will blend seamlessly with the rest of the environment. For example, smart sensors in the patient’s bed will track their vitals and sleeping patterns, while sensors in the toilet will analyze their fecal and urine samples. Welcome to the future.
The End of Nursing Homes?
Nursing homes have taken a beating since the start of the pandemic. Statistics show that around 45% of U.S. COVID-19 deaths occur in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Many homes and facilities have run low on PPE and staff over the past few months, leading to rampant outbreaks. In other cases, seniors have been cut off from the rest of society as their facility goes on lockdown, which means they can’t visit with friends or family for months at a time.
Seniors are taking note. Many will likely be weary of nursing homes once the pandemic is over. That means more seniors will be living at home or “aging in place” instead of moving to a local facility.
Digital Everything – All the Time
Again, seniors were rather apprehensive about the internet before the pandemic, but that’s all about to change. In the future, we will likely see seniors using the internet for just about everything, such as:
- Skyping and zooming with friends and family instead of risking an in-person visit
- Using Google Maps and GPS devices to drive to local destinations instead of boarding flights and cruises to new destinations
- Using apps to compare the safety ratings of local restaurants and eateries
- Ordering food and medicine online and having it delivered instead of driving to the store
- Looking for work and working remotely as they look for ways to earn a living without working a job in person
Safety will be top of mind virtually everywhere seniors go. Businesses and travel companies will likely use these safety practices as a selling point, so they can attract those who are concerned with their health.
Now that elderly Americans know how to use the internet, many will likely make these habits a permanent part of their routines. The pandemic has changed the nature of retirement and what it means to be a senior citizen in this country. Keep these trends in mind as we continue dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus.