Some seniors struggling with mental health during pandemic while others are thriving

Kristin Thorne Image
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Coronavirus pandemic impacting seniors' mental health in different ways
Kristin Thorne reports on how the pandemic has affected the mental health of many different populations of people, including seniors.

NASSAU COUNTY, Long Island (WABC) -- The coronavirus pandemic has affected the mental health of many different populations of people, including seniors.

At Family and Children's Association (FCA) in Nassau County, they're helping seniors get counseling to cope with the feelings of depression and anxiety caused by the isolation of pandemic.

"I'm seeing a lot of our seniors really afraid to go back out," said Christiana Mangiapane with FCA "They're anxious. They don't want to get sick. They don't want to get their loved ones sick."

Lisa Stern with FCA said the organization helps connect seniors to long-term care resources.

"It's not normal to be depressed when you're old, and I think that's a myth that's perpetuated in society," she said.

Stern said those with FCA have noticed a rise in alcoholism and drug abuse among seniors during the pandemic.

RELATED | Mental health and coping during the coronavirus pandemic

Bill Oshrin, of Long Beach, has received counseling services through FCA. He said the pandemic exacerbated his anxiety.

"It's frustrating and I hope this world turns around for the better," he said.

Two recent medical articles suggest the mental health of the country's seniors, however, may not be as bad as people may believe.

In August 2020, the Centers for Disease Control published a survey which found that people aged 65 and older reported significantly lower percentages of anxiety, depression and stress than younger people.

A November 2020 article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association argues older adults may actually be more resilient than younger people to the stress-related mental health disorders caused by the pandemic.

"Approximately eight months into the pandemic, multiple studies have indicated that older adults may be less negatively affected by mental health outcomes than other age groups," the authors wrote. They argued it may be due to the wisdom of older people.

"An additional factor to consider is wisdom, a complex personality trait comprised of specific components, including prosocial behaviors like empathy and compassion, emotional regulation, the ability to self-reflect, decisiveness while accepting uncertainty and diversity of perspectives, social advising, and spirituality," the authors wrote.

Those with Prestige Adult Center in Huntington Station are still getting their members out into society and on Wednesday a group of seniors took a field trip to Huntington Village and ended with a dance party and Bingo at the center on Walt Whitman Road.

"It's very important to keep the mind going," said center member Lucille Wechsler, of Levittown.

Helene Woods, of Seaford, said she encourages her friends to get out and socialize.

"All you're going to do is sit at home and think and get depressed," she said.

Prestige Adult Center owner Behn Goldis said two or three weeks ago when all of the center's members had received their vaccinations, they had a party at the center and people were hugging and crying.

"It was like, you know, they're a family who they haven't seen in over a year," he said.

To contact Family and Children's Association call 516-292-1300. The Link-age program is free to individuals 55 and over who live in Nassau County.

RELATED | Helping children cope with the pandemic impact

Since the pandemic began, all of us are coping at some level with stress, isolation, and mental health challenges. That includes children.


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