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Social impact of Covid – 19 giving elderly hard time finds Agewell Foundation survey

New Delhi – Generation gap between the generations has increased rapidly due to Covid-19 phenomenon in the state of Rajasthan. Older people are suffering a lot due to this emerging trend in the society. Revelation has come through a study conducted by the Agewell Foundation, an NGO working for the welfare and empowerment of older people in August 2021.

The Agewell Foundation survey conducted on 1500 older persons, who were all above 60 years of age, through Agewell volunteers spread across the state.

Agewell survey found that 86 percent of the elderly were facing or had to face Covid-19 situation and related issues. Among elderly men 87 percent among elderly women 85 percent elderly women were found affected due to Covid-19 situation.  40 percent respondents termed sense of loneliness and isolation termed as the most prominent psychological issue followed by restlessness in  22 percent respondents.

According to Agewell survey, in 26 percent elderly, the disease and poor health was the most prominent reason for psychosocial impact. While 21 percent considered financial issues and restricted social interaction as the most prominent reason for their difficulties.

Financial impact on the elderly was mainly due to heavy medical expenses. 29 percent of the elderly responded found medical expense as main burden on them. The loss of job, business, professional income loss impacted 25 percent while rising inflation affected 25 percent.

Most disturbing Impact of increased Unemployment and Joblessness was increased dependence which was pointed by 27 percent of the elderly respondents. While 16 percent said that due to loss of jobs they were unable to get proper treatment or even regular medicines.  19 percent of the respondents said that their grand-children’s education suffered due to joblessness in the market. While 12 percent respondents reportedly claimed that they had to terminate or postpone their critical medical check-ups.

Every 5th elderly respondent in Agewell survey agreed that their quality of life has been compromised due to rising inflation. 22 percent elderly claimed that they had to compromise with unhealthy or unhygienic conditions due to rising prices. 16 percent elderly claimed that they had lost their savings and investments due to inflation during Covid-19 situation.

71 percent elderly respondents in Agewell survey said that paralyzed healthcare system affected their life adversely. Healthcare issues were termed as most critical issues by 29 percent of the elderly while 24 percent elderly said that they find psychosocial conditions more critical while 23 percent claimed that social issues were critical for them and 21 percent respondents found financial problems more critical during this situation.

Among elderly with medical issues 26 percent said during Agewell survey that the most prominent factor responsible for their poor health condition was restricted mobility. 23.7 percent respondents said that treatment for a longer period of time is a major factor. 18.6 percent of affected elderly termed high cost of treatment and medicines as the most critical issue.

Agewell survey found that 16.9 percent respondents reasoned that weakness in old age is a major factor responsible for their poor health. When it was attempted to assess the attitudinal change in the lives of elderly, it was found that Covid-19 phenomenon has changed the attitude of more than 90 percent elderly. Among them 92.1 percent elderly reportedly said post-Covid-19 threat, they are not optimistic towards the future or are now uncertain about the future.

Agewell Foundation Survey on Elderly problems

In the current situation, 95 percent elderly admitted that their major concern is looking after the health condition of self and spouse. 67 percent elderly are also concerned for their family members. 63.7 percent said that their major concern is maintaining financial resources. 58% elderly said that they are much worried about their social life while career of their children and education of grand-children were their major concerns, termed by 43.5 percent and 28.5 percent elderly respectively.

Due to Covid-19 situation Human Rights of older persons were also found violated as 41 percent elderly respondents realized that during Covid-19 situation their human rights were compromised remarkably.

Agewell survey found that 29 percent of elderly claimed that they have to face mistreatment, torture, exploitation while 51 percent said that disrespect or neglect in old age has become common during this period. 61 percent elderly claimed that have to face gender or age related discrimination more often.

More than half of respondents complained of poor health, while only 15.8 percent elderly said that their health is good. Almost every third elderly was found with below average health conditions.

“Due to Pandemic and related lockdowns/restrictions generation gap is increasing in the society, which is severely affecting older persons who are already suffering from marginalization, isolation and loneliness in the society. Since there is no respite yet, older persons need constant assurance of support, help and all kinds of assistance in case of need at all levels.” Himanshu Rath, Chairman, Agewell Foundation said.

Many surveys conducted since the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic establish that major problems being faced by older people during Covid-19 pandemic and induced lockdowns, restrictions include – health anxiety, sleeplessness, panic attacks, depression, unceasing stress, nightmares, fear of contracting Coronavirus, anxiety related to the uncertain future, etc.

During the Survey it was observed that Covid-19 has impacted work at all fronts. This has resulted in ever increasing inflation and reduced income as almost every family is suffering across the state.

In the beginning of the Pandemic last year, many households used their savings but now most of those savings (in households) also seem to have evaporated. The most affected lot because of Covid-19 phenomenon is the helpless and marginalized older people, who believe in self denial and silently suffer all indignity / humiliation /isolation.

Many surveys conducted since the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic establish that major problems being faced by older people during Covid-19 pandemic and induced lockdowns, restrictions include – health anxiety, sleeplessness, panic attacks, depression, unceasing stress, nightmares, fear of contracting Coronavirus, anxiety related to the uncertain future, etc. Though the pace of Coronavirus has slowed during the past months in many states, the possibility of a third wave of Covid-19 cannot be ruled out. Data trends also clearly show that the coronavirus pandemic isn’t over yet.

Huge surge in Covid-19 cases across the country and a massive burden on the healthcare system, left older people perplexed during the course of disease. Covid-19 pandemic has imposed many challenges before older people, from social isolation, financial penury, psychological issues to elder abuse and neglect.

At the same time, large number of older persons have also suffered due to many ills of Covid-19 situation such as unemployment, paralyzed healthcare system, almost non-functional education system, derailed transport system, loss of business & industry, restrictions on social, religious & cultural freedom. It has not only affected day-to—day life of older persons but also affected their quality of life adversely.

Based on the survey, the Agewell Foundation has recommended to the authorities that to bridge the gap between generations by promoting and conducting inter-generational bonding programs. There is an urgent need to protect elderly from violence, abuse, neglect and social isolation. Himanshu Rath, Chairman, Agewell Foundation recommended that to create better awareness about Human Rights of Old People across the country.

“To improve overall attitude toward older people living with mental and psychological disorders there is a need to set up door-step healthcare support systems for elderly with poor health conditions and disabilities. In order to organize recreational and entertainment activities for older persons, social and electronic media need to be used and effort be made to encourage their participation.” Himanshu Rath, Chairman, Agewell Foundation recommended.

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