The pandemic has made many older people less active

Not only have gyms, yoga studios, swimming pools, adult day programs, community centers and senior centers all closed for extended period...

Not only have gyms, yoga studios, swimming pools, adult day programs, community centers and senior centers all closed for extended periods; many older people also took on fewer ordinary chores and errands and may have skipped recreational hobbies.

“If you’re limiting visits to the grocery store or having your groceries delivered, or if you’re not visiting or helping your grandchildren, if you’re not meeting friends at a coffee shop, all of that requires some level of physical activity,” says Dr. Beauchamp.

Many seniors traveled less or shopped less in person; religious services, family reunions and medical appointments moved online. “Imagine how many activities we do without even thinking about it,” Dr. Hoffman said. When that changes dramatically, “it adds up over six or nine months and then you have a loss of balance or muscle strength, which leads to more trips and falls.”

Disparities in health and income also appear to play a role, with reduced physical fitness and mobility being more frequently reported, in both countries, by respondents in the low-income, fair or poor health, or multiple chronic diseases.

“Relatively healthy older people have a sufficient reserve if they reduce their activity,” said Neil Alexander, a geriatrician at the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs who was not involved in the study. “People at high risk may be behind these numbers.”

Dr. Alexander also pointed out that at the start of the pandemic, elderly patients had less access to rehabilitation and other services. “It was difficult to get people home for occupational therapy and physical therapy,” he said. “Support services to keep people mobile and functional have been disrupted.” Now labor shortages can have a similar effect, he noted.

Physical function is key to living independently – the future that a large majority of older people envision for themselves. Loss of mobility and function in a considerable proportion of the elderly population could mean increased disability, increased need for eventual long-term care, and higher Medicare and Medicaid costs.

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Newsrust - US Top News: The pandemic has made many older people less active
The pandemic has made many older people less active
Newsrust - US Top News
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