During this current epidemic, the CDC recommends everyone aged 60 and older stay inside and limit contact with others, as they are at a much higher risk. But are disease-free seniors really at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19? Many states have enforced shelter-in-place rules to keep ALL residents from going out unless absolutely necessary. A group of geriatricians gave their input on the hot topic:
- UNDERSTAND that current warnings come from China where 80% of deaths occurred among people 60 and older. The current U.S. data shows similar numbers, but those 85 and over were actually the hardest hit. Further, data from the U.S. and other countries also proves that people with compromised immune systems and underlying conditions are most likely to become fatally ill from COVID-19. We do not have details about underlying issues among older adults in other countries. However, we do know that older adults have weaker immune systems and are more susceptible to illness.
- BE CAUTIOUS: We don’t know to what degree the virus is circulating among communities due to limited testing. Further, some people will never even know they had the virus, or won’t know until symptoms become noticeable. The virus can live on door handles and other surfaces for up to 72 hours. Knowing so little about the virus, doctors suggest everyone be equally cautious. While restaurants are limited to carry-out and delivery, avoid going to pick up food if possible. If you need a prescription, have it delivered or go through your pharmacy’s drive-thru. Also, grocery stores now offer delivery, make use of this whenever possible.
- MIND YOUR HEALTH: Dr. John Morley of Saint Louis University School of Medicine came up with an acronym to help you check if you would be considered “frail.” If you answer ‘yes’ to three or more of these, you should be extremely cautious while self-isolating. If even one of these pertains to you, it is recommended that you practice self-isolation so you don’t put yourself at risk. If even healthy people are being affected, others with weakened immune systems are certainly at risk.
- F – are you consistently Fatigued?
- R – Resilience: are you able to climb a flight of stairs?
- A – Aerobic: can you walk a block?
- I – Illness: any underlying health conditions?
- L – Loss of weight
- KNOW your limits when it comes to taking “risks.” Experts understand that social interaction is still very important, especially at a time when morale is low. If you are healthy (at any age) and practicing proper hand hygiene, it is perfectly acceptable to venture outdoors for some fresh air. Be aware of your surroundings and do not come in close contact with anyone for long periods of time. Passing your neighbor at a safe distance is fine, but don’t stand directly next to them and carry on a lengthy conversation. Further, try to avoid handling your phone in public places. Hard plastic like that can act as a breeding ground for germs. Make sure you disinfect your phone each time you come home with it.
Are Seniors Really at the Highest Risk for COVID-19?
Many seniors do face a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. But it’s impossible to single them out when everyone is at risk one way or another. It’s easy to feel burdened by these trying times, so it is important for seniors and young adults alike to come up with a new daily routine. Keep in mind that it is safe to exercise during this crisis. In fact, maintaining a regular exercise regimen at home will be beneficial for your overall well-being. Catching up on sleep you are undoubtedly missing in your busy schedule is also a good idea. If at all possible, avoid social media as inaccurate information can be more harmful than helpful. Keep an eye on reliable news sources and listen to the advice of experts. Maintain a safe distance from others not just for yourself but the other people you may come in contact with throughout the day. Stay healthy and be conscious of others.
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