For 70% of Polish seniors, the pandemic is taking an increasing toll on physical and mental health
The epidemic which has been our reality for a long time is having an increasingly adverse effect on the elderly, both in the context of physical and mental health.
Within the framework of the Adamed for Seniors programme, the National Institute for Silver Economy (KIGS) carried out a second survey entitled “Needs and health of senior citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic”. The findings were presented during KIGS Silver Debates on 26 January 2022. The KIGS survey was conducted in December 2021 on a group of 1,009 people aged over 60.This is the fourth edition of the survey conducted among seniors during the pandemic, and the second one targeted towards insights into their health and needs. In addition to revealing the current state of affairs, the new edition gives an opportunity to analyse trends in comparison with last year’s data.
Since the onset of the pandemic, nearly one third of the respondents have discontinued their medical treatment. Compared to last year’s results, the proportion remains at the same level which, from the perspective of the growing health debt, is a great threat (an increase by 0.9 percentage point).
As previously, the seniors called attention to their problems with access to healthcare. Nearly 60% of them are in particular need of specialist medical care. Furthermore, both in 2020 and 2021, elderly people in Poland had the greatest difficulty making an appointment with a general practitioner. The problem was reported by over one third of the respondents.
Nearly half of the seniors surveyed complain of loneliness and 70 percent experience a negative impact of the pandemic on their mental and physical state. This feeling is aggravated by the lack of outside help, with as many as one third of the respondents being entirely on their own, without any assistance from those around them.
Other statements from senior citizens show that they do not have in-depth knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic. When asked about the area in which they would most like to educate themselves, they mention health.
“The survey shows that the pandemic has a clearly negative impact on the physical and mental status of seniors. It leads to a deterioration of their overall health and well-being.The fact that previous surveys produced similar results indicates the permanent nature of the reported problems related to healthcare. At the same time, more than 40% of the respondents said that, despite the pandemic, they had not given up on face-to-face relationships and meetings with friends over the past year, and almost as many had communicated via online messaging. This shows the importance of maintaining social relations for the well-being of senior citizens” – says Elżbieta Ostrowska, Chairwoman of the Executive Board at the Polish Association of Pensioners and Disabled Persons (PZERiI).
“Social contacts and visits were very restricted over a year ago. I feel very lonely, especially now that I’ve been a widow for a year. Nobody comes over, I have no visitors. Even with the neighbours we only meet outside and for a short time. I myself try not to stay too long in shopping centres, too. I really miss face-to-face contacts, having coffee together and talking to people. Friendships have weakened, which adds to the feeling of loneliness and fear for the future. I am concerned about my health and who will be there for me if I need care and assistance. Because of this, my mental state has been badly affected. I feel anxious all the time, and I worry about what the next day will bring” – says one of the seniors included in the report.
Feedback obtained in the survey may serve as a starting point both for further analyses of the health effects of the pandemic among seniors and forecasts of healthcare costs in this social group. It should also be considered whether and how it is possible to restore pre-pandemic health and well-being levels among the elderly.
“The results of the survey are extremely insightful. They provide valuable information about the well-being of elderly people during the pandemic, their needs, and the opportunities and limitations in meeting them. In addition, they identify areas of particularly pressing needs when it comes to healthcare, availability of medical services, and prevention. The survey results should provide important guidance to all entities implementing the senior citizen policy as well as seniors’ organisations. They should also chart the course of action to improve the situation of the elderly during the pandemic” – says Elżbieta Ostrowska.
A partner in the 4th edition of the survey “Needs and health of senior citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic” is the social programme Adamed for Seniors.
To download the report, go to the tab: Adamed for Seniors