Agewell Foundation Survey Finds Elderly are the Worst Sufferers During the COVID-19 Lockdown

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National, May 2020: The elderly are the worst affected among all during the current lockdown situation due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. It was revealed by the latest survey, conducted by Agewell Foundation, an NGO, working for the welfare and empowerment of older persons in the country since 1999. For the survey, 5000 older persons across the country were interacted over the phone by Agewell volunteers in order to assess the impact of the current lockdown situation on their life.

According to survey findings, 70 per cent elderly were either already facing health complications or fearing to develop some medical complications due to current Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Other salient findings of the survey are:

  • Approx. 55 per cent elderly respondents asserted that the current lockdown situation is affecting their health condition adversely. 75 per cent of such elderly patients said that they missed the Healing Touch of their doctor, as they could not visit them personally. 43 per cent of such elderly patients were undergoing regular pathological check-ups, and they have to avoid these check-ups all of a sudden.
  • 25 per cent elderly said that the lockdown has not affected their current health condition so far and approx. Five per cent elderly said that their health condition is improving due to a clean environment resulting from lockdown rules.
  • According to the elderly, access to regular medicines/physiotherapy was most critical health challenge being faced by them, as 44 per cent respondents termed this as the most critical health challenge before them.
  • Anxiety, sleeplessness, lack of appetite and lack of physical activity was termed the most critical health challenge according to 34 per cent respondents.
  • During the survey, more than a half (approx. 54 per cent) elderly admitted that their social life has been disturbed due to lockdown. Among these elderly, 71 per cent claimed that they are fearful of meeting anyone or to interact with anyone nowadays.

During the survey, while interacting with older persons, volunteers observed that the majority of older persons look depressed due to this new phenomenon. They expressed a sense of apprehension, resentment, anxiety and even anger while talking over the phone.

It was found that 54 per cent elderly respondents were staying with their younger family members (children /grand-children /other family members, etc.) while 33 per cent were living with their respective spouse and 13 per cent respondents were living all alone during lockdown period.

  • 45 per cent of respondents, who were staying at home with their children/ grandchildren and other family members, admitted that lockdown has helped in bridging the gap between generations. However, 55 per cent do not agree that life during the lockdown period has helped in bridging the inter-generational gaps.
  • During the lockdown period, 52 per cent elderly respondents claimed that their interpersonal relationship with family members particularly their own children has further deteriorated due to hardly any communication, conflict of personal ego, interests and attitude.
  • According to 23 per cent respondents, the popularity of modern information technology gadgets is the most responsible factor for their disturbed interpersonal relationships because most of the younger people are busy with their cell phones or computers.
  • 31 per cent claimed that financial dependence of elders on family members is the primary reason for the bitter relationship.
  • 20 per cent elderly claimed that they have no /less space for themselves due to 24-hr homestay of other members, which is their primary concern and affecting their relationship.
  • 15 per cent elderly reportedly admitted that neglect of their special needs in old age is the most responsible factor.
  • 11 per cent of respondents said that they are highly dissatisfied due to the selfish attitude of younger family members.
  • Interestingly, 59 per cent of elderly, staying with their other family members, claimed that they still feel psychological loneliness /isolation even amid their family members. Primary reasons for this situation were – neglect by younger family members, unsympathetic relationship, discriminatory behaviour against elderly, rising frustration levels, etc.
  • 65 per cent elderly complained that due to lockdown situation they have lost their independence, self-esteem and even dignity to some extent, as they have to depend upon others for their basic needs.
  • For 38 per cent elderly, their unfulfilled expectations are now dominating their relationships.
  • Almost every second elderly person (51 per cent respondents), claimed that their human rights are at stake during lockdown period, as they are being mistreated /harassed (mentally or physically)/shouted at/misbehaved with/threatened/tortured/neglected /isolated /marginalised.

Speaking on the occasion, Himanshu Rath, Founder Chairman of Agewell Foundation said, “Due to the current lockdown, most of the older persons are struggling and facing a peculiar situation in their life. They are finding themselves at the receiving end, those who are living alone have practical problems and those who are living with families, have psychological issues.  Under current tension, the elderly are getting depressed due to lack of assured medical and financial support, social interaction and lack of independence/ self-respect /dignity.”  Rath further added, “The Government should extend a helping hand to old people by announcing certain packages, exclusively for old people.”
 
The survey recommends that the government should:

  • Launch a Helpline for older persons
  • Announce benefits for older persons like guaranteed subsidy/loans.
  • Announce GST waiver for businesses focused on senior citizens  – food, accommodation, care and medical needs.
  • Provide subsidy or loans and support for Assisted Living or Senior Care Homes.
  • Set up care facilities or homes specifically for elderly COVID-19 patients.
  • Release the second tranche of Rs 6000 assistance under Kisan Samman Nidhi.
  • Raise awareness among the illiterate urban and rural elderly and undertake special efforts to explain and demonstrate safety measures against COVID-19.
  • Set up special PDS distribution points for the elderly.
  • Create awareness about the senior care sector and frame policies for faster development of the senior care industry.
  • Create a uniform set of guidelines that can be implemented across the sector that will leverage home healthcare workers for monitoring of the elderly.
  • Provide essential healthcare services like medical insurance in a safe and secure environment for the elderly.