Health challenges for American seniors go far beyond COVID-19

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Posted at 6:40 PM, Jun 01, 2021

CINCINNATI — The COVID-19 pandemic was a unique threat to seniors all over the globe, and subsequent health initiatives focused early and hard on shielding people over the age of 65 from severe illness and death connected to the novel coronavirus.

But, as pandemic restrictions ease and end, many more challenges remain for the oldest Americans.

A recent United Health study found seniors in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana still struggling with isolation, inactivity and other problems that reduce the quality of their lives. The pandemic didn’t cause these problems, but it exacerbated them.

“All the seniors we serve, 53% of them live alone, so they're living alone in their own home without any family or friends,” said Ken Wilson, who helps run the Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio, on Tuesday. “Now, during COVID-19, that was made a lot worse. There were all these orders to shelter in place, so that accelerated the isolation.”

Loneliness, obesity, poverty and inactivity are among the study’s headliner issues for older adults in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

Experts’ fear about their knock-on effects is especially pronounced in Ohio, which sports the nation’s sixth-oldest population.

Wilson said the state needs to serve that population with more qualified home health aides, more transportation options and more ways to get food to seniors stuck at home.