Expert Pitch

Rutgers gerontologist discusses strategies for older adults to stay connected and active

Older adults, especially those who lacked robust social networks before the outbreak of COVID-19, are at high risk for social isolation, said Emily Greenfield, an associate professor who specializes in aging at the Rutgers School of Social Work.

Many seniors who relied on libraries, senior centers and restaurants for daily interactions no longer have access to these places. Older adults also are encouraged to limit physical interaction with family members outside their homes – a cornerstone of social connection for many people in later life.

Greenfield talks about resources and strategies to maintain social connection and physical activity for homebound older adults during these difficult times.

What does social isolation mean for older adults during the coronavirus crisis?

Leaders in the field of aging are encouraging older adults to find ways to connect with others while still practicing social distancing. In fact, some are advocating that we talk about using the term “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing” because it acknowledges that social-relational connections are possible even in the face of physical distance. I use the term “socio-physical distancing” to refer to the practice of limiting in-person social interactions with others to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

What are some resources older adults can utilize? 

Similar to people of other ages, many older adults can access tools on the internet to connect with others. The idea that older adults are digitally “in the dark” is more myth than reality. While it is true that internet use is more prevalent among adults in younger age groups, research indicates that, over the past two decades, internet use among adults ages 65 and older has increased dramatically.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, professionals in aging were innovating and expanding the use of digital platforms to make social opportunities more available to homebound older adults. As one example, Selfhelp Community Services’ Virtual Senior Center is a program that brings the long-standing practice of group-based educational and social programming into a digital environment that is designed specifically for older adults at home. 

What about those without digital resources?

Adults who lack access to the internet at home are encouraged to take advantage of telephone-based programs, such as personal reassurance phone calls. These programs involve designating an individual, such as a volunteer or professional, to call a homebound older adult regularly, providing a social contact and ensuring that the older adult is okay. Older adults with hearing impairment might need special equipment to benefit from phone-based services.

How can older adults develop intentional strategies for physical activity?

Research consistently demonstrates the benefits of physical activity for later life health—physical, mental and cognitive. Mobility disruptions during this COVID-19 pandemic can quickly lead to a more sedentary lifestyle, which can have health repercussions. 

With adequate internet access, older adults can use online resources to facilitate exercise and physical activity within their homes. The National Institute on Aging, which primarily focuses on advancing research, offers online videos to guide older adults in at-home workouts. Silver Sneakers, an organization that facilitates access to older adult fitness classes through Medicare plans, offers its members more than 200 videos for home-based workouts. Older adults without internet access can benefit from telephone-based programs. In New Jersey, some Medicare plans offer telephone-based health coaching programs. Older adults (or family members, friends and professionals who support them) should call their provider for potential options.

Filters close

Showing results

110 of 5612
Released: 11-May-2021 3:55 PM EDT
Pregnant Women Hospitalized for Covid-19 Infection Do Not Face Increased Risk of Death
University of Maryland Medical Center

Pregnant women who develop severe COVID-19 infections that require hospitalization for pneumonia and other complications may not be more likely to die from these infections than non-pregnant women. In fact, they may have significantly lower death rates than their non-pregnant counterparts.

Released: 11-May-2021 3:45 PM EDT
This stinks: New research finds sense of smell and pneumonia linked
Michigan State University

An acute loss of smell is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, but for two decades it has been linked to other maladies among them Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Now, a poor sense of smell may signify a higher risk of pneumonia in older adults, says a team of Michigan State University researchers.

Released: 11-May-2021 3:15 PM EDT
How to predict severe influenza in hospitalised patients
University of Melbourne

Published today in Nature Communications, the team from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), Alfred Health and Monash University sought to understand which patients would recover quickly from influenza and which would become severely ill.

Newswise: Five benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine
Released: 11-May-2021 2:50 PM EDT
Five benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine
University of Alabama at Birmingham

UAB experts explain some of the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Newswise: Covid-19 Alters Gray Matter Volume in the Brain, New Study Shows
Released: 11-May-2021 2:05 PM EDT
Covid-19 Alters Gray Matter Volume in the Brain, New Study Shows
Georgia Institute of Technology

Study led by researchers at Georgia State University and Georgia Institute of Technology finds lower gray matter volume in the northern region of the brain is associated with a higher level of disability among Covid-19 patients, even six months after hospital discharge.

Released: 11-May-2021 10:15 AM EDT
How to Win Over Vaccine Skeptics: Live Expert Panel for May 20, 3pm ET

How to Win Over Vaccine Skeptics: Live Expert Panel for May 20, 3pm ET

Newswise:Video Embedded simulating-sneezes-and-coughs-to-show-how-covid-19-spreads
Released: 11-May-2021 10:10 AM EDT
Simulating sneezes and coughs to show how COVID-19 spreads
Sandia National Laboratories

Two groups of researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have published papers on the droplets of liquid sprayed by coughs or sneezes and how far they can travel under different conditions. Both teams used Sandia’s decades of experience with advanced computer simulations studying how liquids and gases move for its nuclear stockpile stewardship mission.

Released: 11-May-2021 9:00 AM EDT
COVID-19 Wastewater Testing Proves Effective in New Study
University of Virginia Health System

Wastewater testing is an effective way to identify new cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes and other congregate living settings, and it may be particularly useful for preventing outbreaks in college dormitories, a new University of Virginia study finds.

Newswise: Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center to Start Post-COVID-19 Rehabilitation Program
Released: 11-May-2021 9:00 AM EDT
Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center to Start Post-COVID-19 Rehabilitation Program
Hackensack Meridian Health

Mountainside Medical Center will begin a new Post-COVID exercise program designed for those who have had COVID-19 to improve strength, flexibility, endurance and activities of daily living. The program goal is to improve quality of life and promote lifestyle changes through education and exercise.

Showing results

110 of 5612