Alberta’s seniors are most at risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes. Provincial data shows the average age of those with COVID-19 requiring hospitalization is 62, and the average age of those who have died from the virus is 81.
Not surprisingly, I’ve heard from a number of seniors who are living in fear and anxiety. While the increasing availability of vaccines means we’re reaching the final stretch of the pandemic, we still need to be mindful of the impact COVID-19 is having on mental health. Fear, anxiety, isolation and loneliness continue to impact individuals of all ages.
There are many ways you can support the mental health of yourself and your loved ones. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it’s a great place to start:
- Stay informed using credible sources such as alberta.ca/covid.
- Exercise both body and mind. Physical exercise is a great mood booster.
- Stick to a routine as much as possible. A predictable structure that includes good food, sleep and exercise can help ease the stress that comes with uncertainty.
- Stay connected to others. If gathering in person (outdoors, in small groups, socially distanced) seems daunting, try calling, texting, emailing or video chatting. A letter or card may also brighten someone’s day.
- Take up a new hobby that is both interesting and challenging. Staying occupied can be a great way focus on something other than fear and worry.
- Sign up for Text4Hope to receive daily text messages meant to develop healthy personal coping skills and resiliency.
- Take advantage of the multiple mental health resources currently available. A full list can be found on Alberta Health Services’ website.
As a result of the $25 million Mental Health and Addiction COVID-19 Community Funding program, $3.5 million has been allocated to support 32 community grants aimed at addressing the needs of seniors. In addition, the Collaborative Online Resources and Education (CORE) knowledge hub announced last year provides a platform for seniors-serving organizations to improve delivery of services. The hub makes it easier for organizations to share resources and coordinate services, with a focus on key COVID-19 issues, including transportation, food security, social isolation and home supports.
Alberta’s government will continue to monitor the impact the pandemic is having to ensure the necessary supports and services are in place to meet the needs of all residents.
As you take care of others, please remember to take care of your own mental heath too.
Jason Luan served as the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions from April 30, 2019 to July 7, 2021.