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Mental health, Disney+, Zoom, vegan food: How COVID changed the lives of seniors

by Guest Blogger
Senior woman reading in kitchen

New survey by Amica Senior Lifestyles taken look into the mental and lifestyle impact of COVID-19 on seniors in the US and Canada

  • 85% of seniors surveyed said they are talking about their mental health more

  • 38% report feeling less connected to their loved ones during this pandemic

  • 72% of Baby Boomers and seniors said that they used video calling at some point during the pandemic

  • Of those that have used video calls, 54% said it helped them feel more connected to family and friends over the past 9 months

  • 2 in 5 seniors have taken up social media (42%), and Netflix & Disney+ (41%)

  • Nearly a third (31%) of seniors are using streaming services to help manage their mental health

  • 41% of seniors have embraced cooking over the past 9 months, with 30% of seniors taking up a more plant-based and vegan diet

Seniors and those in the ‘Baby Boomer’ age groups are statistically the most likely to see the pandemic as a major threat to their health, just one issue among many in 2020, seeing many have their lifestyles whether by choice or imposed by government actions.

To understand the impact, Amica Senior Lifestyles surveyed 1,409 Americans and Canadian seniors on how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed senior lifestyles, both mentally and physically.

When asked whether the pandemic had caused them to consider and talk about their mental health more, 85% of US and Candian respondents said that it had; with almost 3 in 4 (74%) seniors saying they are thinking more about spirituality too.

Some of this consideration of over mental health is, in part, due to the isolation many seniors have felt over the past 9 months, as many have been unable to see family or friends or had their daily routines turned upside down.

This isolation is somewhat shown in the fact near 2 in 5 (38%) of seniors reported feeling less connected with their loved ones. However, there is some good news.

72% of Americans and Canadian respondents had engaged with video calling at some point during the pandemic. The most popular software and technology for seniors in the US and Canada were; Zoom (35%), Google Meet/Duo (22%), WhatsApp (19%), and Facetime (15%).

Over half (54%) of those surveyed stating that video calls had made them feel closer to their family, and 2 in 5 (42%) saying that the connection and closeness they felt from video calling had a positive impact on their mental and physical wellbeing

While video calling was the biggest technological “take up” by seniors during the pandemic, social media and streaming services also saw a jump in seniors opening accounts.

42% of respondents said they’d started to use social media applications, while 41% they had tried TV streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, with 29% revealing that they had tried music streaming services

When asked about their TV streaming habits, a third (33%) of respondents said they use the services to enjoy feelings of nostalgia from old films and shows, while 31% said they use it to assist with keeping positive mental wellbeing and a quarter (25%) use such platforms specifically to make them laugh and feel happy.

In addition to the pick-up of technology to entertain and keep connected, seniors have also been taking to online shopping and banking; to manage their spending and buy products for around the house.

Almost a quarter (23%) of seniors surveyed said they had shopped online for the first time in response to the pandemic’s impact on shop openings and fears of to their health, while 46% of respondents said they were shopping online more than before the pandemic.

Over a third (35%) said the pandemic had introduced them to online banking to manage their finance, however, 23% said that the pandemic restrictions had made managing their finances harder.

Overall, the majority (71%) of our Seniors and Baby Boomers said that they intend to stick to at least some element of their new tech choices after the global pandemic is finished.

Away from digital technology, 2 in 5 (41%) said they had embraced cooking over the past 9 months, while a third (34%) had taken up baking, and 32% painting and drawing. In addition to this, our survey found that 3 in 5 (61%) of respondents said they felt more inclined to seek out and try bucket list experiences once lockdown restrictions end – citing the restrictions as the motivation.

Perhaps as part of their cooking hobby and experimenting with different cuisines, our survey found 30% of seniors had taken to eating more plant-based and vegan meals since the start of the pandemic. Conversely, 1 in 5 (21%) said they were eating more meat, while 49% reported no change in their food preferences.

As for what people seniors are eating, the majority (59%) said they were largely eating healthier, with only 9% saying they were eating more junk food than before the pandemic. 88% said they will stick to the food choices they made once the pandemic is over.

In response to our survey finding seniors are considering and talking about their mental health more, Nicole Arzt, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, at Family Enthusiast comments:

“We know the physical risks of COVID in seniors, but we can’t disregard the mental health risks associated with lockdowns, social distancing, wearing masks, etc. Loneliness is already a significant issue affecting older people, and this pandemic is exacerbating that feeling for many people. It’s hard to not be able to see your children or grandchildren.”

“We need to keep talking about the impact of mental health and providing support to this population. This doesn’t downplay the risk of COVID. Instead, we need to keep in mind that parallel issues like depression, anxiety, increased substance use, poor eating habits, etc. can have their own short-term and long-term consequences.”

By Amica

Amica Senior Lifestyles is setting a new standard for senior living in Canada by combining unparalleled premium hospitality and amenities with expert care and support to deliver a personalized senior living experience.

Committed to enriching the lives of seniors now and as their needs change, Amica offers independent living, assisted living and memory care lifestyle options. Established in 1996, the company owns and operates 31 residences in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, with plans to continue expansion in select markets.

A representative group of 1,409 Baby Boomers and seniors from the USA and Canada were polled on behalf of Amica Senior Lifestyles, using Amazon’s online survey platform, Mechanical Turk. Survey responses were fielded in September and October 2020. They were asked a variety of questions relating to their lifestyle changes during and after the global pandemic.

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