The COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to the inadequate care of older persons, who have paid a high price throughout the pandemic. Since March 2021, there have been 119 million cases and 4.1 million deaths globally1 with the greatest number of deaths occurring among older persons. The pandemic has not only highlighted the burden of respiratory infections among the ageing population, but also the debilitating impact of isolation.
A recent article in the Irish Times highlights some of the ways in which older people have faced increased isolation during the pandemic, how lockdowns have diminished their role in society, and the fact that much-needed social interactions have become largely non-existent. The lack of social interactions has been linked to diminished physical and mental health. These realities are not exclusive to the COVID-19 pandemic and the article includes voices of older persons who emphasized that they had had years of experience with isolation.
In a pre-pandemic world, social isolation was a reality that existed but was little-known, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the impact of isolation on the lives of older persons. A pre-pandemic article discussed the ways in which people who were socially isolated were more likely to experience depression, difficulties managing daily activities, and had an increased chance of having a chronic condition. The negative impact of isolation on both mental and physical health cannot be ignored and points at the urgent need to prioritize the rights of older people.
As such, it is of great importance for global communities to uphold the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing, which calls all member states to ensure that older people can continue to participate and be an integral part of society. Furthermore, it is vital to recognize that it is a collective responsibility to guarantee and safeguard the rights of older persons.
The IFA’s 15th Global Conference on Ageing entitled “Rights Matter” is underpinned by the four action areas of the Decade and is a global point of connection for experts in the field of healthy ageing.
To learn more about the importance of addressing social isolation and the rights of older people, contact Emily A. Greenfield, Associate Professor of Social Work, Rutgers University; Dr. Isabella Aboderin, Senior Research Scientist, Oxford Institute of Population Ageing; and Dr. Kiran Rabheru, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa at the IFA Expert Centre. The Expert Centre is a unique resource for those interested in connecting with thought leaders to help influence policy related to population ageing.
1John Hopkins University (2021). COVID-19 Dashboard. Retrieved online at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html.
Dr. Gunhild Waldemar Professor of Clinical Neurology
Dr. Waldemar is a professor and chairman of the Danish Dementia Research Centre at the University of Copenhagen.
Dr. Isabella Aboderin Senior Research Scientist
Dr. Aboderin is also Head of the Program on Aging and Development (APHRC) & Associate Prof of Gerontology at the University of Southampton.
Dr. Kiran Rabheru Full Professor of Psychiatry
Dr. Kiran Rabheru is a Full Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa and Geriatric Psychiatrist at The Ottawa Hospital (TOH).