As recent times have shown us all, self-isolating at home is no picnic. Each age group encountered its own difficulties during the coronavirus lockdown, from young children stuck indoors to busy professionals swapping their suits for sweatpants.

But perhaps the group that was hit the hardest by the quarantine was the elderly.

Since they’re at greater risk of contracting Covid-19 health complications, elderly people had (and in many cases, still have) to adhere strictly to quarantine that led to loneliness and resulting symptoms of anxiety, depression and trauma.

And as researchers from Bar-Ilan University and the University of Haifa discovered, the older these seniors felt, the more pronounced the effect of loneliness was on psychiatric symptoms.

According to their findings, recently published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the effect of loneliness on psychiatric symptoms was most pronounced among study participants who felt subjectively older than their chronological age. In comparison, participants who felt subjectively younger than their chronological age exhibited no psychiatric symptoms related to loneliness.    

“The way older adults perceive old age and their own aging may be more important to their coping and well-being than their chronological age,” explained Bar-Ilan Prof. Amit Shrira.

These findings could assist in identifying older adults at high risk of developing psychiatric symptoms as a result of corona-related loneliness, as well as in guiding interventions to lower age perceptions to mitigate the negative impact of such loneliness ahead of future pandemics.

In the meantime, Shrira recommends some courses of action to relieve the emotional burden of isolation among the elderly. These include holding regular conversations with family members, volunteers and even strangers, as well as leisure activities such as reading, solving puzzles, cooking and physical exercise – however minimal – to break up monotonous routines.

Younger people can make sure to allow their elders to share experience and wisdom to make them feel more valuable.