Opinion

Eudemonia of older adults in a world plagued by Covid-19

We are getting old, as the days go by and so does our age, at a personal level this is true. In a global sense this is also the reality, the average age of humanity is going up, and pretty rapidly too. A report from the United Nations in 2015 shows that the median age of the World population has risen from 23 in 1950 to 30 as of 2015 and by 2050, the median age for the entire World will be 36.

In Britain 1875; any one at the age of 50 years of age is referred to as an older adult, the United Nations considers people that are 60 years and above as older adults. In developing countries, 60-65 years of age makes up the retirement age. According to the World Health Organization by 2050, the World’s population aged 60years of age is expected to be 2 billion. Today 125 million people are 80 years old or older

By 2050, there will be almost this many (120 million) living in China alone, and 434 million people in this age group worldwide. By 2050, 80% of all older people will live in low- and middle-income countries. The pace of population ageing around the world is also increasing dramatically. France had almost 150 years to adapt to a change from 10% to 20% in the proportion of the population that was older than 60 years.       

However, places such as Brazil, China and India will have slightly more than 20 years to make the same adaptation. While this shift in distribution of a country’s population towards older ages – known as population ageing – started in high-income countries (for example in Japan 30% of the population are already over 60 years old), it is now low- and middle-income countries that are experiencing the greatest change

The Covid 19 pandemic have had a huge impact on our lives since December of 2020, the pandemic led to traffic in our hospitals, wide spread lockdown, isolation and negative impacts on our economy. Older adults have been the worst hit from both the virus and lockdown measures and unfortunately haven’t benefitted so much from the technological solutions to cushion the social, psychological and economic effects of the pandemic.

The pandemic has disproportionately affected the older adults, causing immense damage to their psychological, social and mental wellbeing around the World. The effects of ageism make it quite arduous for them to overcome these challenges. Older adults especially those with pre-existing health morbidities have been the worst hit by the novel coronavirus.

Long term health facilities have had heightened cases of hospitalization and even deaths unfortunately.

In many low- and middle-income countries, older adults face additional issues including access to care, weak health systems, poor infrastructure and the spectre of severe longer-term socio-economic effects of the crisis. In addition, even before the pandemic, reports showed that many older adults were already more socially isolated and experienced more loneliness than the rest of the population.

A recent study in a Chicago nursing home found that from December 2019 to end of April of 2020 saw two thirds of their resident’s lose weight and in some cases the weight loss was dramatic and scary. The aging immune system undergoes immunosenescence, T-cell diversity alterations and chronic activation of the innate immune system, known as inflammaging.

These hallmarks of the aging immune system cripple the body’s ability to clear the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  Coronaviruses also possess an ADP-ribosylhydrolase that further depletes already-low NAD+ levels in older people. Levelling of the epigenetic landscape during aging results in changes in the immune cell composition and function that decrease the immune system’s ability to mount a response to infection.

Dysregulation of the RAS during aging and in the context of age-associated disease, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, COPD and obesity, contributes to severity of COVID-19 infection. The glycome which controls a variety of immune signalling pathways changes during aging and in the context of metabolic diseases As if old age weren’t cruel enough, it brings one more change to the immune system: It slows down how quickly natural killer cells and other first responders hand off the defence to activated T cells and B cells.

Older adults have been ravaged by the pandemic, Italy and other parts of Europe saw a very alarming hospitalization of older people and a huge death rate. Families had to be separated from older members and most people couldn’t say good bye to those they lost or even pay their last respect. This period has been one that our older adults dread and pray more than every other person to see come to an end.

Families that have older adults should take extra care by making sure that they reduce physical contact with them but stay in touch with them by showing them utmost love. The government especially in developing countries where our older adults live in the suburbs and villages with very little and no income should provide protective equipment’s and also free testing for the virus.

Older adults should be taught how to handle technology for keeping in touch, and the family members and caregivers must keep them busy with fun activities to prevent loneliness and depression. Adults that have constant doctor’s appointment like monthly check-ups should have their non-essential visit cancelled or postponed. Hospitals should be asked if they offer telemedicine to help keep older adults at home and in touch with their doctors. Older adults have a right to a happy healthy life even in the middle of a fatal pandemic.

Halima Imam
Founder (Climate Action Team)
[email protected]

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