Returning to a New Normal

As Illinois advances through the stages of reopening, important considerations need to be given to older adults. Decreased cases and risks associated with Covid-19 have been a welcomed situation for Southern Illinois, where we can dine outside, go to stores, and feel a little like what it was before March of this year. However, the potential for falling ill to Covid-19, especially for an older adult, is still present. The Illinois Department on Aging has several work teams developing a safe opening plan for senior centers for both meals and activities. It looks to be a slow process with more waiting as other areas of business are beginning to open.

Older adults are lonely, socially isolated, and eager to rejoin friends at their local senior center, gym, or other communal gathering place. It is important for community members to reach out to older family members, neighbors, and friends during this time to check on those most vulnerable. Several months without much socialization, mental stimulation, or physical activity can lend itself to a decline in both cognitive and physical functioning. With most medical clinics closed for a period of time, non-Covid related illnesses did not get monitored. Most older adults did not have care for chronic medical conditions, like dementia, mobility, heart disease or other ongoing conditions. A decline in overall health is a possible reality for many older adults.

Rebounding from this pandemic will be difficult for all of us, but especially older adults. Older adults need to remain patient with themselves and maintain a positive attitude as much as possible. Support from others will help immensely in making appointments, arranging transportation to medical providers, and ensuring medications are filled. To help with loneliness, volunteers for telephone outreach, as well as for writing letters to homebound seniors, provide ways for seniors to connect with others. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program at our agency can link volunteers with the appropriate senior program and can be reached at 618-985-8311. During this time of moving through the phases of Covid-19, Shawnee Alliance continues to assist older adults with financial difficulties to help with the purchase of medicine, groceries, or other emergency needs, as well as assess for what is needed to keep an older adult safely in the home. Senior Centers also have funding to help with emergency needs for older adults. Assistance can be requested by calling the senior center in your area, Egyptian Area Agency on Aging at 618-985-8311 or Shawnee Alliance at 618-985-8322.

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