Family connectivity - the most important aspect for elders this New Year | Sunday Observer
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Family connectivity - the most important aspect for elders this New Year

2 January, 2022

 A New Year has just begun. As this is a time for family reunions, religious activities, fun and frolic, health authorities have reiterated their concerns about protecting the public. The authorities have emphasized the importance of being mindful about wellness during the pandemic, especially at a time when the new Omicron variant which has 70 percent increased transmissibility is spreading fast. The best form of protection for the new variant is the Pfizer booster vaccine. They have also reminded the public about the importance of maintaining physical distance and wearing face masks in public places, to avoid a surge in Covid 19 cases following the New Year.

At the same time all those caring for elders have urged family members and close friends that such precautions should not result in the elders in a family being left in social isolation.

The Sunday Observer spoke to Consultant Physician, Geriatric Unit, Colombo South Teaching Hospital, Dr Dilhar Samaraweera on how physical distancing especially in a season of festivity when families come together could have negative impacts on elderly relatives causing social isolation.

Responding to our question, he said, “While being careful about the spread of Covid- 19 virus we need to realize that physical distancing of elders has resulted in social distancing of elders. Physical distancing has caused isolation of elders resulting in depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and insomnia. Physical distancing has also caused increased cardiovascular mortality and increased incidence of sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass and function) and frailty. Therefore, while emphasizing the effectiveness of maintaining physical distance in curbing the spread of the virus, we should make maximum effort to see that this does not result in social isolation of the elders.”

Asked how this could be prevented, he said, “The elderly should be able to enjoy themselves within the family without masks and distancing.  Safety nets need to be maintained within family units.”

Asked how, he said, “All the family members should get their booster vaccines and practise protective measures outside their houses and see that they do not bring the virus home. He also added that drinking alcohol and smoking should be avoided as they add more stress to elders and could even lead to violence and injuries in the home. This collective responsibility may protect the family units. This is a time to give, receive and share love. The elders should be able to hold hands and feel the loved ones and enjoy the company of family during these precious times.” he said. 

Elders have the right to enjoy this festive season without fear. As long as they have been vaccinated and their family members have also received their vaccinations, they need to feel part of their families without being outsiders. Let them be active participants when you enjoy the New Year, without exposing them to any risks. To Elders, Connectivity is the most important aspect of their family get-togethers”