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A Month Into Social Distancing, Seniors are Feeling Better Prepared, But More Lonely

Half of seniors are “very” or “extremely” prepared; two in five report increased loneliness and less access to health care professionals.

By Amie Clark and The Senior List Team | Last Updated: April 10th, 2020

In mid-March, a few weeks into the COVID-19 crisis and social distancing, we asked seniors about being prepared for an extended shelter-in-place or quarantine, and also about the level of interaction and potential feelings for loneliness.

Now, nearly a month later, we have revisited these topics and sentiments have changed. Seniors are feeling more prepared than a month ago, especially when compared to non-seniors. At the same time adults, ages 60 and over are feeling more lonely and isolated.

Key Findings:

  • Nearly half (49 percent) of seniors feel extremely or very prepared for extended stay-at-home orders compared with 36 percent of non-seniors.
  • Twenty-one percent of seniors are interacting in person (assuming social distancing) with those outside their household daily compared to 49 percent in March.
  • Forty percent of seniors are reporting feeling more lonely than before COVID-19 compared with just 10 percent in March.
  • Thirty-seven percent of seniors reported that Doctors, Nurses, and Aides are less available vs. only six percent who said the same previously.

Seniors are more prepared now than they were a month ago, and are the most prepared of any age group

We asked more than 1,750 adults, including more than 700 seniors aged 60+ about their level of preparedness for shelter-in-place and stay-at-home restrictions, or an immediate quarantine. We saw both an increase in seniors who felt extremely prepared, 49 percent this month vs. 42 percent last month, as well as a decrease in those who said they were not at all prepared, 10 percent vs. 17 percent. Seniors are feeling even more ready for shelter-in-place orders than those under 60.

This increase in preparedness may be explained in part by the fact that seniors report having acquired more essential items over the last month. We saw increases in every category we asked about and a big jump in those who now have masks which is at 41 percent from a previous 25 percent. This is a welcome finding as stores across the country try to find ways to make sure seniors are able to get essentials, though there are still 22 percent who would not have essential medicines should they be unable to leave their homes for an extended time.

Seniors are more lonely and isolated than a month ago

We asked more than 1,000 seniors in both March and April about their interactions with others including friends, family, and healthcare professionals. Health recommendations are that seniors do not interact with friends and family in order to keep them safe from potential carriers of COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, we saw a drop in regular social interactions, as well as a sharp increase in feelings of loneliness as social distancing and stay-at-home measures, continue into their second month.

In March, 37 percent of seniors reported having interactions with those outside their household several times a day (assuming social distancing), but in April that number dropped to 11 percent. While it might be expected that video calls could replace some of these missed interactions, there was only a modest increase, with 35 percent now using it to connect up from 27 percent in March.

With the drop in interactions, seniors are experiencing more loneliness in April than they were last month. 40% now say they are feeling more lonely than before the COVID-19 health crisis, up from just 10% in March.

We also found a concerning jump in those who say their Doctors, Nurses, and Aides are less available in recent weeks. Only six percent were experiencing this reduction in access to care in March, with 37 percent reporting it in April. As Doctor’s offices around the country cut hours and delay “non-essential” procedures it seems that routine care is becoming harder to come by for seniors.

The isolation and subsequent loneliness of seniors have been a concern since social distancing measures began, but these measures continue out of concern for the health and safety of those most vulnerable. Our survey finds that the concerns were valid and that these feelings of loneliness are increasing as the crisis drags on.

About The Senior List and Our Data

The Senior List’s research team actively studies aging in place. We publish independent content covering social, economic, political, and geographic topics for seniors, and partner with non-profit organizations and municipalities on our research agenda. Data for this report comes from two surveys. We asked more than 1,750 adults, including more than 700 seniors aged 60+ about their level of preparation and confidence for shelter-in-place, stay-at-home restrictions, or an immediate quarantine during the weekend of March 14th and 15th and then again on April 8th and 9th. In a separate survey, we asked more than 1,000 seniors aged 60+ about their interactions with others, again during the weekend of March 14th and 15th, and then again on April 8th and 9th.