Older adults are significantly more worried about their family and friends during the current coronavirus crisis than they are about themselves, according to a new study of adults aged 60 and over conducted by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Prof. Galit Nimrod. Photo by Dani Machlis/BGU

Prof. Galit Nimrod of BGU’s department of communications studies and Center for Multidisciplinary Research in Aging surveyed 407 older Internet users during the fourth week of the lockdown in Israel, mid-April.

Nimrod asked how they felt about their current wellbeing, what they were anxious about, and how their Internet use had changed following the onset of the pandemic.

The results showed that concern about health, finances and social isolation from the coronavirus ranked higher than the lockdown on older adults’ worry list. But their concern for family and friends was significantly higher than their concern about their own circumstances.

Graph courtesy of Ben-Gurion University

Nimrod found, not surprisingly, that Internet use — especially Zoom, WhatsApp and Skype– had spiked dramatically for older adults. How those technologies are used, however, could either generate stress – when used for interpersonal communication and online errands – or enhance wellbeing, when used for leisure activities such as watching movies or taking online classes.

Nimrod recommends that older adults spend less time video conferencing and more on online games, music, videos, classes, exercise and volunteering, which“may bring both distraction and satisfaction, even if they are not as enjoyable as elders’ normal routines.”

The most amount of anxiety was exhibited by those already in ill health, those with less education, and immigrants to Israel. However, perhaps paradoxically given the greater risk for Covid-19 complications, the older the individual the lower the levels of anxiety reported, Nimrod said.

The study was carried out under the auspices of the Ben-Gurion University’s Coronavirus Task Force.

A similar report conducted in the United States by USC’s Dornsife Center for Economic and Social research found that, during the coronavirus crisis, 34% of adults aged 60 and over reported feeling anxious or nervous, increasing to 38% for older adults living alone. However, that was less than the rate reported for individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 – at 59%.