Washington University in St. Louis

The Pandemic’s Impact on Older Adults

29-Apr-2020 1:45 PM EDT, by Washington University in St. Louis

Newswise — The global pandemic has severely impacted every American, but maybe none more than older people. COVID-19 has placed a high-intensity spotlight on the deleterious effects of deep-seated ageism, sexism and racism on older Americans, suggests a new paper from the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging at Washington University in St. Louis.

“While the virus leads to worse health outcomes for older people, the pandemic presents a number of challenges to older adults beyond dealing with the virus itself,” said Nancy Morrow-Howell, the Betty Bofinger Brown Distinguished Professor of Social Policy at the Brown School and director of the Friedman Center.

Those challenges include lasting economic setbacks, health and well-being effects and highlighted ageism, racism and classism.

Morrow-Howell is corresponding author of the paper “Recovering from the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Focus on Older Adults,” in press in the Journal of Aging and Social Policy.

In the paper, Morrow-Howell and her co-authors Natalie Galucia and Emma Swinford, both of the Friedman Center, identify several specific challenges facing older Americans:

  • A harder time re-entering the workforce
  • Lost retirement savings
  • Disruption/delay in usual social and health care services
  • Lasting emotional effects from increased isolation and anxiety
  • Older adults who have recovered from coronavirus may have increased health vulnerabilities going forward
  • Stronger internal and external ageism
  • Older adults of color and those with lower socioeconomic status are at increased risk for physical and economic challenges caused by COVID-19.

“The challenges we are facing can be expected, and in fact, none of them are new,” Morrow-Howell said. “Our state and regional agencies on aging, private and non-profit agencies, advocacy organizations and universities have been grappling with these issues in one form or another for years. But now, it seems our efforts to improve policies and programs for longer, healthier lives might be more productive as we communicate to consumers, public officials and everyday citizens who may be more aware of what isn’t working, what is at stake and what might be improved.

“Further, we can hope that the spotlight thrown on the inequalities experienced by disadvantaged people during this crisis will bring stronger commitment to working toward social justice and health equity.”

“We can hope that the spotlight thrown on the inequalities experienced by disadvantaged people during this crisis will bring stronger commitment to working toward social justice and health equity.”

The paper does identify a number of opportunities for older adults as a result of the pandemic:

  • Older adults have improved their technology skills and gained experience using online platforms
  • Familial and intergenerational connections have grown stronger
  • There may be renewed energy to combat social isolation
  • Older adults are gaining more respect for self-care and time management
  • There is increased awareness about the importance of advance directives and other legal documents
  • There may be an upswing in interest among professionals across disciplines to work with older adults and issues of public health.

“Although it is not clear what our lives will look like over the next few months, we can anticipate both challenges and opportunities emerging as a result of this pandemic,” Morrow-Howell said.

“My hope is that by articulating these challenges and opportunities, we might move more quickly to minimize the negative outcomes of the spread of COVID-19 and maximize positive changes that might be possible,” she continued. “I hope that all of us — researchers, educators, practitioners, advocates, providers, government bureaucrats and elected officials — will redouble our efforts to improve our aging society in ways that benefit people across the life course.”


WashU Response to COVID-19
Visit coronavirus.wustl.edu for the latest information about WashU updates and policies. See all stories related to COVID-19.


Filters close

Showing results

110 of 2454
Released: 3-Jul-2020 10:25 AM EDT
Lack of lockdown increased COVID-19 deaths in Sweden
University of Virginia Health System

Sweden’s controversial decision not to lock down during COVID-19 produced more deaths and greater healthcare demand than seen in countries with earlier, more stringent interventions, a new analysis finds.

Released: 2-Jul-2020 3:10 PM EDT
Researchers outline adapted health communications principles for the COVID-19 pandemic
CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced unique challenges for public health practitioners and health communicators that warrant an expansion of existing health communication principles to take into consideration.

Released: 2-Jul-2020 1:40 PM EDT
Collectivism drives efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19
University of Kent

Research from the University of Kent has found that people who adopt a collectivist mindset are more likely to comply with social distancing and hygiene practices to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Released: 2-Jul-2020 12:30 PM EDT
Tiny mineral particles are better vehicles for promising gene therapy
University of Wisconsin-Madison

University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers have developed a safer and more efficient way to deliver a promising new method for treating cancer and liver disorders and for vaccination — including a COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Therapeutics that has advanced to clinical trials with humans.

Newswise: Newer variant of COVID-19–causing virus dominates global infections
Released: 2-Jul-2020 12:10 PM EDT
Newer variant of COVID-19–causing virus dominates global infections
Los Alamos National Laboratory

Research out today in the journal Cell shows that a specific change in the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus virus genome, previously associated with increased viral transmission and the spread of COVID-19, is more infectious in cell culture.

Newswise: From Wuhan to San Diego—How a mutation on the novel coronavirus has come to dominate the globe
Released: 2-Jul-2020 12:05 PM EDT
From Wuhan to San Diego—How a mutation on the novel coronavirus has come to dominate the globe
La Jolla Institute for Immunology

Two variants of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), called G614 and D614, were circulating in mid-March. A new study shows that the G version of the virus has come to dominate cases around the world. They report that this mutation does not make the virus more deadly, but it does help the virus copy itself, resulting in a higher viral load, or "titer," in patients.

Released: 2-Jul-2020 11:50 AM EDT
New Study Explains Potential Causes for “Happy Hypoxia” Condition in COVID-19 Patients
Loyola Medicine

A new research study provides possible explanations for COVID-19 patients who present with extremely low, otherwise life-threatening levels of oxygen, but no signs of dyspnea (difficulty breathing). This new understanding of the condition, known as silent hypoxemia or “happy hypoxia,” could prevent unnecessary intubation and ventilation in patients during the current and expected second wave of coronavirus.

Released: 2-Jul-2020 10:15 AM EDT
Stemming the Spread of Misinformation on Social Media
Association for Psychological Science

New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.

29-Jun-2020 9:00 AM EDT
Coronavirus damages the endocrine system
Endocrine Society

People with endocrine disorders may see their condition worsen as a result of COVID-19, according to a new review published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.

Showing results

110 of 2454