- Living arrangements are vital in understanding virus spread among elderlies
- Densely populated neighborhoods had the highest mortality: Study
- Living with younger population also means receiving care from them: Experts
New Delhi: COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the health of millions of people worldwide and still continues to rage on strongly. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), older adults are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms because of COVID-19 which may even lead to death in some cases. This is because as people get older, their risk for severe illnesses increases. A new population-based study conducted by researchers in Sweden and published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity journal has found that the senior citizens aged 70 and above are at even higher risk of COVID-19 mortality if they are living in close contact with people of working age, especially those who work outside the home.
The study titled, “Residential context and COVID-19 mortality among adults aged 70 years and older in Stockholm: a population-based, observational study using individual-level data” highlights the importance of living arrangements and household composition, such as, crowded housing, mixed-age household and care homes along with social contacts outside the household for understanding the spread of COVID-19 among the senior citizens. The study covered over 2.79 lakh individuals aged 70 years or older. Maria Brandén, of Linkoping University, Sweden, and lead author of the study said in the paper,
Our findings confirm that in areas of the community where there are high numbers of COVID-19 infections, there are high mortality rates among the elderly and that elderly people are more at risk of dying from COVID-19 if they live in a care home or with family members who are working age.
While talking about the vulnerability of the older adults, Dr. Vijay Kumar, Assistant Professor, Geriatric Department, All India Institute Of Medical Science (AIIMS) said that due to their decreased immunity and antibody reserves most elderlies suffer from one or more underlying medical conditions such as asthma, liver diseases, diabetes, heart problems, hypertension or some other such disease. So, it becomes even more important to take care of older adults to protect them and keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said,
It is extremely important to take special care while living with senior citizens. Not just the working population but also those who go out to buy essential items must ensure sanitising their hands and the surfaces they touch and share with the elderlies at home are properly cleaned frequently. There is a direct correlation between age and mortality when it comes to COVID-19.
He further suggested that the people living with elderlies must try to reduce trips outside as much as possible and not mix their personal belongings like clothes and utensils with those of the older adults at home. He asserted that since a majority of the younger population is exhibiting no or mild symptoms, it becomes essential to strictly maintain physical distance with the elders but not leave them alone.
According to the authors of the study, since the study focuses on Sweden, the findings may not apply to other countries. However, they warn that the study has provided with an evidence of the impact on elderly people when community transmission is not part of a control strategy. Ms. Brandén said,
Controlling community transmission is key in protecting everyone in this pandemic. Neighbourhood transmission is an important consideration for COVID-19 even if older people can and do self-isolate, because many of them will come into contact with working age people at some point. Close exposure to working age-individuals in the form of care workers or other household members puts older people at risk, so strategies to protect these people must be explored, with particular attention to densely populated areas.
Dr. K K Aggarwal, President, Confederation Of Medical Associations In Asia And Oceania, said that the risk of COVID-19 transmission is high among the senior citizens living in congested settings like slums where social distancing is not possible. He suggested that in order to protect the older population during the pandemic, it is important to raise awareness among them on wearing masks and on leading a healthy lifestyle. They should immediately consult doctors even if there are minor symptoms, he added.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.[corona_data_new]