New research from the Saskatoon Council on Aging and the University of Saskatchewan has come out studying the effects of COVID-19 on the city’s older population to help plan responses to future crisis situations.
Adults 55 and over from Saskatoon and surrounding areas participated in surveys and focus groups from November 2021 to March 2022 to help researchers understand the impacts of the pandemic on the lives of older adults.
“On the whole, older adults told us that their health declined, they felt that they were less safe and connected during the pandemic, but they were also really good at talking about their resilience through the pandemic,” said co-chair of the project, Jane McPhee. “They felt they had some of the skills and experiences that could help people to come together again after the pandemic and move forward past some of the situations that were going on.”
The report was being conducted when restrictions in the province were lifting, but seniors reported they didn’t have the resources to handle things going ‘back to normal.’
“The province was trying to open up and older adults told us they felt like they didn’t have good information in terms of making decisions about their own health,” said McPhee. “They wished that there was better communication with the powers that be, with the public health, with the government about the things that were required of them to keep them safe at this time.”
The report stated that participants showed frustration with provincial policies and being asked to be responsible for their own health, but not being provided with enough tools to self-evaluate.
“Communication was something I thought our leaders didn’t do a good job (of) … informing us of what was going on and how we needed to pull together and work through this,” said a participant.
“I will have to still practice distancing and masking and everything when other people don’t,” said a participant while discussing self-evaluation and their increased susceptibility to contracting the virus due to being immune compromised.
Some of the participants did share what they called “silver linings” that the pandemic brought about.
“One thing that really resonated with me was the slower pace and the time to relax was a good thing,” a participant explained.
“My wife and I were very intentional about structuring time together where we would connect to do different activities, and actually, the quality of our marriage improved,” said another.
The pandemic also brought seniors curbside pickup and special senior shopping hours that allowed them to shop when things weren’t as busy.
McPhee said that the committee is going to make recommendations to the Council on Aging board as part of the next steps of the project.
One of those steps is to implement “additional programming that could help with some of the things that we heard from older adults that could help them become more comfortable moving forward,” McPhee said.
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