Study: In pandemic era, older adults isolated but resilient

With the pandemic's descent, they have traditionally been recognized as some of the most helpless elderly Americans to figure out how to survive life in an exceedingly lonely, VOID-saturated environment.

This is one kind of wellbeing — physical.

In mental and emotional wellbeing, the new autodidactic findings in a report in the USA suggest persistence and perseverance despite depression and alienation challenges.

The new data from the Longitudinal National Social Life, Fitness and Aging Survey, undertaken by NORC at Chicago University, is part of a long-term analysis aimed at tracking the physical and mental wellbeing of older Americans in the long term.

Just 9% of older adults have registered "fair or bad overall mental wellness" since the pandemic, close to past responses and an indicator of what is referred to in the survey as "some signs of resilience."

Around half the older adults are now happy or very happy and there are more and more claims that they have occasionally felt unhappy or isolated.

"It should raise everyone's awareness of the impact of isolation but also of the reality that people are resilient — perhaps more older adults than younger adults," said NORC lead researcher Louise Hawkley.

"It's not their first appearance.

They were already over stuff.

You know how to cope with pressures," said Hawkley.

"We can learn from them that this is something—that there is survival."

The information comes from 1284 respondents aged between 55 and 99 years, who were interviewed in September and October, all of whom took part in a long-term survey that also directly gathered data in 2015-2016.

No error margin was given.

Additional interesting results from the answers:

— Around a quarter of older adults in the survey indicated that during the pandemic, they may not have had personal contact with their relatives and friends outside their own families.

—At the same time at least half of older adults "have not reduced their personal contact frequency with friends and families that don't live with them" since the pandemic started.

The study found that electronic contact was happening where human touch faded, however, quite surprisingly, in this population, telephone conversations (32%) laggered behind tweets (37%) and video calls (42 percent ).

Taken together, the answers are what Hawkley terms a generational portrait that stretches through decades, persists under daunting conditions and, ultimately, whose participants even after the pandemic downturn require more attention to loneliness and to mental wellbeing.

"We do not appreciate how well people cope with the age," said Hawkley, who is specialized in studies into depression and social alienation in older adults; she said that physical data from participants are being made available as soon as the pandemic starts.

"We're painfully learning how real a risk to our mental health is social isolation," she said. "I think we'll need to learn how it affects physical health."