New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) The elderly are most vulnerable to anxiety and social isolation culminating into mental stress during the lockdown, which is a worrying factor against the backdrop of high mortality among them from the coronavirus infection, says an AIIMS psychiatry expert.

According to the Union Health Ministry, people above 60 years of age account for more than 60 per cent of Covid-19 deaths in India. The ministry has categorised the elderly in the high-risk profile.

Psychiatrist, Dr. Ashish Pakhre told IANS that social isolation in the elderly population is a worrying aspect. He contended that lack of social support, limitations in executing daily routines and chores, and poor family support will have immense cause for elevated stress, depression and sleep problems. “It is extremely crucial now to see what can be done to address the deleterious effects of social isolation, especially in elderly population of our society. Prolonged lockdown poses a serious public health concern in elderly population in our country,” he said.

The country has already been through a 21-day lockdown and on Tuesday, the Prime Minister announced the extension of the lockdown till May 3. Would this extension of the lockdown, eventually an isolation period, make elders more uncertain and anxious about the remaining period in the lockdown?

Dr Pakhre said the elders are already feeling uncertainty and anxiety, and experiencing immense concern over their health issues. He added this step to continue the lockdown is not an easy way to go ahead, of course with the special population of our society.

With most of the elderly have their children in different cities or probably out of the country, how could they fill this gap of social connectedness against the backdrop of a diminished family? To this, Dr Pakhre said online technologies/social media platforms may be used to provide social support, connection with family members as a sense of belonging. “More frequent telephonic contacts with close family members, close friends and support system is needed. If any mental health issue arises, then online consultations will be suitable to access psychological assistance or contact with a psychiatrist should be provided,” he added.

With restricted movement of the elderly, Dr Pakhre insisted that authorities concerned can bring services, catering for elderly, at their homes and these should include necessary food items, groceries, and medical appointments.

(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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