The elderly people remain most vulnerable persons during the present pandemic. If they contract virus, their survival becomes the lowest. According to a survey in United States, almost 30 percent of those who die due to the virus were above 55 years of age. Keeping the elderly to self-isolate continues to be one of the most effective COVID-19 prevention strategies. It is perhaps the reason why the administration time and again, through various advisories, asked the older people to avoid crowded places as well visiting the religious places. However, it is not just the direct effects of the covid-19 that increases mortality and morbidity among them. What has come to fore is that by shutting away to save them from virus, they suffer from neglect which among others includes lack of care from other ailments and loneliness. The pandemic has highlighted humanity’s dilemma of what to do with older people.
Beyond doubt, the travel restrictions and social distancing measures have a bad effect on their lives including access to healthcare. The infection which remains incurable hitherto has meant that elderly people keep missing out on treatment as medical check-ups have become infrequent. All this is likely to show up in the mortality and morbidity rates among them.
In other words, while the restrictions remain a strong medicine to prevent the deaths due to the virus, it has harmed human well-being in many ways, by other medical problems that could not be attended to.
There are many healthcare schemes like the Ayushman Bharat Yojana which can be tweaked to incorporate special provisions for the elderly. Tele-health and mobile home-based health care check-ups should be offered and ensured to them to tide over these difficult times. Such measures are essential to the right of a dignified life.
The lower rates of literacy rate among this segment of people also limit their access to important information as well as technology. Isolation could be a way forward against the virus but its implications are manifold including mental ill-health problems amongst the aged.
The elderly are valuable assets for the family, more so when they are active and feel valued. There is a need to keep them engaged as they have an invaluable role to play in our collective future. The elderly want to add more life to their years, not more years to their life. The covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the tension between keeping old people safe and keeping them well.