Promoting Healthy Aging During COVID-19

John A. Batsis, MD, AGSF; Kathryn Daniel, PhD, AGSF; Elizabeth Eckstrom, MD, MPH; Kady Goldlist, MD; Halina Kusz, MD, AGSF; Douglas Lane, PhD, ABPP; Julia Loewenthal, MD; Patrick P. Coll, MD, AGSF; Susan M. Friedman, MD, MPH, AGSF

Disclosures

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2021;69(3):572-580. 

In This Article

Conclusion

Older adults have not only borne the brunt of COVID-19 illness and death, but they have also suffered disproportionately from the restrictions put in place to limit the spread of the virus. AGS is an advocate for optimizing good health in old age. Although COVID-19 has challenged this goal, members of the AGS Healthy Aging Special Interest Group remain committed to promoting healthy aging both during and after the current pandemic and educating our patients and to our colleagues. Supplementary Table S1 highlights overarching themes that can be helpful to all GHP.

COVID-19 has forced our society and patients to change how to engage in health promotion activities. There needs to be a balance between keeping older adults safe from the ravages of COVID-19 and optimizing their overall health. Both the positive and negative effects of the plans put in place to keep older adults safe need to be measured. This can be challenging because identifying the number of COVID-19 cases and associated complications is relatively easy, but identifying the negative impact of COVID-19 related restrictions on the overall health of older adults is much more difficult. When it is clear that the negative impact on older adults is greater than the positive, these plans need to be adjusted. Engaging GHP in pandemic planning should be considered in engaging communities and older adults as outlined in the White Paper.

At the time of this writing, there is a light at the end of the tunnel with the emergency use authorization approval of the first two vaccines for widespread use. Although older adults are prioritized over other lower-risk demographic groups (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations.html), this pandemic has undoubtedly altered our routine lifestyle but perhaps has provided opportunities for changes in healthcare delivery. Advocacy efforts should prompt policymakers in changing reimbursement systems by promoting technology-based endeavors, particularly in under-represented populations and under resourced areas. Those working with older adults help optimize their health and function; we need to be aware of the challenges in achieving this goal posed by COVID-19 and the efforts to limit its spread. We need to continue to work with older adults, their families, and caregivers, to make sure that our efforts to promote healthy aging are sustained in the face of the pandemic. Continuing to dispel ageism in health promotion interventions and advocating for additional training to non-geriatric providers through interprofessional learning endeavors is needed. We need to be a part of the discussions and plans put in place to limit the spread of the pandemic, so that these plans are sensitive to the overall health needs of older adults.

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