I’ve been spending time with friends I haven't see in a while and they share a noticeable change in their health since the pandemic. Activities like travel, that normally are exciting and fun, are exhausting and overwhelming. An activity that would normally be effortless, like walking to the store or climbing two flights of stairs results in quickly being out of breath. For one friend of the family, they have experienced an onset of type II diabetes that wasn’t part of their lives before the pandemic.
A recent article by journalist Paula Span shared a study by the University of Michigan reported reduced physical activity levels among respondents 50-80 years old at nearly 40%. This decrease in activities has led to a worsened physical conditioning and mobility. One of my friends shared that they no longer walk down their 1/4 mile driveway to get their newspaper, instead taking the car. My friend's parents, in their 80's no longer go to the grocery store and have their food delivered by family or through delivery services, so they no longer have an opportunity to chat with their regular check out clerk. The convenience of zoom events has made it easy to watch from home and so the physical effort getting to and from is less.
Though, now there is a decline in the rate of infection and Dr. Fauci has declared the US is out of the pandemic phase, these issues may lessen as people resume regular day-to-day activities. For some, the hardest part is inertia. This was sentiment shared by one of the commenters for the Span’s article. Frank from New York City, 80 years old said: “...The hardest thing about this stuff is getting out the door. Force yourself to do it. I can't ever remember looking back and saying, "I wish I hadn't gone out to run." Also, it's useful to keep a simple record/log. For some reason, maybe not wanting to look back on blank spaces, it's a motivator. But getting out the door is the key.” For more comments, go here. There were some helpful thoughts shared by commenters.
The good news reported in Span’s article is “You can reverse deconditioning. You can recover mobility.” Below are some tips pulled from articles and links to these articles for your reference. The key: be kind to yourself. It’s been a tough few years.
Take it slowly and try one small step at a time
Don’t be hard on yourself
Seek help if you need it - Research at University of Michigan showed that nearly 1 in 3 express reservations about getting help if they need it
Schedule delayed screenings and medical care
Visit your doctor to get your functioning assessed
Getting your mojo back after pandemic isolation
Help Seniors Get Their Groove Back Post-Pandemic
University of Miami
Tips for Older Adults to Regain Their Game After Being Cooped Up for More Than a Year
Kaiser Health News
Pandemic Worsened Many Older Adults’ Mental Health and Sleep, Poll Finds, But Long-Term Resilience Also Seen
University of Michigan
Upcoming event on May 19 2022 1- 2:30 pm EST; 10-11:30 am PST
Optimizing Health and Well-Being as We Age: Celebrating Five Years of the National Poll on Healthy Aging
More information: https://ihpi.umich.edu/healthyagingwebinar
The How Right Now website
Created during the pandemic by a partnership of national health organizations and agencies, is a great starting point for coping in the time of COVID-19. It guides users to resources and includes a page specifically for people in distress or need of support right now.