ALL NEWS

The elderly face unique faith, connection challenges during a pandemic

Oct 1, 2020, 10:38 AM
COVID-19 tests assisted living elderly pandemic...
FILE - In this July 17, 2020 file photo, a senior citizen holds the hand of a care coordinator at a Health facility in Miami. The elderly are among some of the most at-risk for coronavirus, which means they are also more likely to become isolated as a result of it. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

SALT LAKE CITY — One of the most vulnerable populations to the coronavirus pandemic may also be one of the most isolated: the elderly. 

Six months into the pandemic, many elderly Utahns remain home to protect their health, but as a result, may feel lonely or isolated. 

Faith, once an oasis of connection for those groups, may seem stretched thin. But experts say there are ways to help. 

Connections for the elderly during the pandemic

Many wards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will start streaming more of their meetings online after General Conference. Other religions have started using Zoom or other video platforms to reach their congregations.

Mental health advocates like Kim Meyers say that is very helpful to those who have not gone to church in months.

“Absolutely. Any way we can decrease people being cut off from their opportunities for engagement and connection, is crucial, and we know people’s faith connections are a big part of that,” said Meyers, who is the assistant director with the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Other ways to connect

And besides the virtual connections, Meyers says people in those faith communities can also stop by and say hi from the sidewalk. Or sit and talk with their older friends and family members outside.

Research shows loneliness is a significant health issue. It can affect physical health, and even lead to early death. Meyers says this pandemic has exacerbated the problem for the elderly.

“Social isolation is the lack of contact with others, while loneliness is the feeling that one is emotionally disconnected. So how do we emotionally connect, while staying safe, is the important question,” said Meyers.

Help from community advocates

Community partners and advocates are working on that.

Afton January, with Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services, says call your loved ones and check in. They need their family. But they also need their peers.

So the organization has opened a virtual senior center.

“That means older adults who are staying home and staying safe can still have interactions with our staff, with our instructors, and other older people that they normally would have spent time with at the senior center,” she said.

January says the Aging and Adult Services staff has made 7,000 calls every month to seniors around Salt Lake County. Family and neighbors can do the same.

“Obviously call your grandmother and see how she is doing, call your grandad and talk to him about what’s happening in sports right now, or whatever,” she said. “But also see if they are connected on social media. Find out if the older adults in your life know how to use Facebook, or TikTok and some of these fun things online. Do they know how to use Zoom, or Facetime, or other types of video technologies?” 

How else to help

And practice with them. Help them before their church or community class or family reunion Zoom. If you are not sick, you can also go to their home with a mask and set it up.

“Technology is not a substitute for in-person engagement, but it certainly is an opportunity to check in regularly,” said Meyers.

Meyers says older adults often have many medical appointments. That’s when health care providers should screen them for loneliness and social isolation. And the rest of us can find ways to reach out and emotionally connect, while being safe.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service has issued a recall for mil...
Simone Seikaly

Check your pantry, a Conagra canned meat recall may affect you

Millions of pounds of canned meat and poultry products (mainly Vienna sausages) are involved in the Conagra recall.
13 hours ago
Two temporary federal pandemic emergency assistance programs are coming to an end in the coming mon...
Waverly Golden

As two federal pandemic emergency-assistance programs near an end, Cox has solutions

Two temporary federal pandemic emergency assistance programs are coming to an end in the coming months due to more job opportunities.
13 hours ago
Police arrested a man in Washington County on suspicion of human trafficking a child on Thursday. ...
Hugo Rikard-Bell, Mark Jackson, Adam Small

UHP arrests man suspected of trafficking New England teen

Court documents show that the UHP pulled over Tevon Jarrell Cullors-Tillman after his car was spotted driving erratically.
13 hours ago
Follow @SimoneSeikaly...
Simone Seikaly

Elk herd again on the move near Foothill Drive and Parley’s Canyon

Drivers near Foothill Drive and Parley's Canyon were warned to remain vigilant as officials worked to move the herd.
13 hours ago
A high altitude balloon floats over Billings, Mont., on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. The U.S. is tracki...
Oren Liebermann, Haley Britzky and Michael Conte, CNN

Pentagon tracking suspected Chinese spy balloon over the US

(CNN) — The US is tracking a suspected Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon over the continental United States, defense officials said on Thursday, a discovery that risks adding further strain to tense US-China relations. Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the US government has been tracking the balloon for several days as it made its way over […]
13 hours ago
quit their jobs...
PAUL WISEMAN AP Economics Writer

US added a strong 517,000 jobs in January despite Fed hikes

The Fed is aiming to achieve a "soft landing" — a pullback in the economy that is enough to tame high inflation without triggering recession.
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
The elderly face unique faith, connection challenges during a pandemic