Lockdown resulted in positive lifestyle changes in the elderly


PICTURE: Professor Anna Whittaker’s view More

Photo credit: University of Stirling

The COVID-19 lockdown has been a catalyst for many older people to get immersed in technology, reconnect with friends, and build new relationships with neighbors, according to research by the University of Stirling.

Understanding the coping mechanisms some over 60s put in place during the pandemic will play a key role in developing interventions that will help combat loneliness, isolation, and well-being in the future.

The study, led by the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sports, surveyed 1,429 participants – 84 percent (1,198) of them were over 60 years old – and found that many had adapted to video conferencing technology to improve online connectivity with existing social networks while others reconnected to previous networks. Participants reported that the lockdown made them first in touch with neighbors and other members of their communities, while several said social distancing had added meaning to life by highlighting what was important to them.

The paper, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, comes out six months after the study, funded by the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office’s Rapid Research in COVID-19 program, reported in its preliminary results that Social distancing has increased feelings of loneliness in the elderly.

Behavioral medicine professor Anna Whittaker, who led the study, said, “Our research found that the COVID-19 lockdown caused feelings of loneliness in the elderly – with many having less social contact and support. However, the study also raised positive ones For example, Lockdown encouraged some elderly people to engage and engage with technologies like Zoom, WhatsApp, or FaceTime in order to keep in touch with loved ones or to attend exercise classes or religious groups to prevent high levels of loneliness. Hence it could be a really important tool in helping older adults improve their digital literacy and use remote social interactions to combat loneliness.

“Participants also reported actively seeking new social contacts while having restrictions – such as making contact with friends they hadn’t spoken to in years and interacting more with neighbors and other members of their communities. Tellingly, many reported of our participants on social distancing actually led them to find new sources of satisfaction in life.

“Our study also highlighted that promoting safe social contact through physical activity and interacting with people in the community can be an effective way to reduce loneliness, improve well-being, increase social activity, and social To improve support. “

The study, which included a survey conducted between May and July 2020, looked at the effects of social distancing during the pandemic on loneliness, wellbeing and social activity, including social support, in older Scottish adults.

Participants were asked about the strategies they had chosen to improve social interaction during this time and reported that the way they interacted with their friends and family, their beliefs, selected group activities and, to a lesser extent, theirs Employers and their colleagues had changed. More than 300 participants mentioned “Zoom” – the video conferencing tool – in their responses.

More than 150 participants reported that their religious meetings had gone online, replacing face-to-face meetings, while 91 said social gatherings with family and friends had changed in favor of online game nights. New activities included bingo and quiz nights, while other activities went online – such as bridge nights, book clubs, choir rehearsals, and dance and exercise classes.

The role of the community – especially the neighbors – was mentioned by more than 300 participants, and some shared the shared experience of meeting previously unknown neighbors and increasing interaction with others in the community in local shops or parks. A pleasant Scottish summer also encouraged such interactions, several said.

At least 100 people reported that social interactions were related to their physical activities – such as spending time outdoors while exercising, walking their dogs, or actively commuting.

Professor Whittaker added: “Our research underscores the importance of combating loneliness and social support in older adults – especially in situations where the risk of isolation is high. While this study is specific to the pandemic, it has far-reaching implications for Understand the effects of social distancing and social isolation on the elderly.

‘Findings could be applicable in the future – both in and outside of pandemic situations. In Scotland, the recommendations for improvement could be to encourage older adults to get to know their neighbors better, to engage with local buddy systems and community initiatives, including through digital means and physical activity, such as daily walks in the community. “

Brian Sloan, Managing Director of Age Scotland said: “While it may be difficult to positively view any aspect of the pandemic as such, it is important and worthwhile to reflect on what it has taught us, both about ourselves and about themselves Society and the tools necessary to combat Scotland’s increasing loneliness and isolation.

“For example, we saw firsthand the importance of the community response in helping the elderly throughout the lockdown, and it was inspiring to see people across the country step in and move forward to help those in need around them to help Even as the restrictions ease, we hope that this sense of community spirit continues.

“The ongoing effects of COVID-19 have also shown the importance of increased digital inclusion and how easily people without access to technology can feel out of the loop. It is comforting to see so many older people report being in were able to and accept. ” Engage with technology to stay connected and active.

“However, it is equally important to ensure that those who cannot or do not want to use the Internet have alternative ways to stay connected to their communities and support networks.

“As we take steps towards recovery together, it is important that no one is left behind and that those most severely affected are supported to regain full roles in society.

“We know we will long live with the lingering effects of lockdown loneliness, and this research will be incredibly valuable in how best to tackle loneliness and isolation and improve the wellbeing of older people going forward. “


Professor Whittaker was supported in the research by Stirling colleagues: Dr. Simone Tomaz, Dr. Pete Coffee, Dr. Gemma Ryde, Bridgitte Swales, Dr. Kacey Neely, Dr. Jenni Connelly, Dr. Andrew Kirkland, Dr. Louise McCabe, Dr. Karen Watchman, Dr. Federico Andreis, Jack Martin and Ilaria Pina.