Mental, physical health a concern for the elderly staying home

Published: May. 14, 2020 at 10:53 PM EDT
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The month of May marks mental health awareness. While the pandemic has created tough times for everyone, some are especially concerned for the health of senior citizens - both mentally and physically.

The O'Connor Senior Center in Knoxville now sits empty.

"We miss you guys so much," Calie Terry, the manager, said. "It’s always so busy here, it’s a hive of activity. Now our halls are so quiet."

But that hasn't stopped the center from moving activities online, like virtual bingo. Meanwhile, at nursing centers, hospice nurses are getting creative by painting residents' windows and hosting parades and parking lot concerts.

"For us to be able to think outside the box has been a blessing," Allison Giles, a Caris representative, said. "It’s Inevitable that the isolation is going to impact them in a negative way. So anything we can do to help."

Many seniors already struggle with isolation and depression.

"A lot of our older adults in the community may not have anyone, or may be living alone. So it’s extra important to keep them engaged," Dottie Lyvers, the director of the Knox County Office On Aging, said.

She's not just worried about mental health, but also physical health. Her concern is that people stuck at home aren't getting enough exercise, which could lead to higher risk of falls. She recommends seniors living at home get outside safely and stay active.

It's also important to reach out to elderly friends and family via phone. However, seeing someone's face can make an even bigger impact which is why technology like FaceTime and Zoom have taken off. Lyvers recommends using these tools to play games, sing songs, or tell stories.

When technology isn't available, Giles recommends writing a card; even if it's going to a stranger at one of the nursing homes.

May also marks Older Americans Month. The Office On Aging recently started 'Senior Care Calls'. Volunteers are making phone calls to seniors to check in. They're also using Mobile Meals as daily check ins on senior who don't have interaction the rest of the week.

For information on Senior Care Calls, go to the Office On Aging's


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