Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Saskatchewan Polytechnic researchers study impact of COVID-19 on seniors

40 seniors were interviewed in the spring of 2020 on their experience socially isolating during COVID-19  

October 29, 2020 – Early results of a Saskatchewan Polytechnic research project show that senior citizens have had to deal with a range of emotional and social challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the spring of 2020, Sask Polytech researchers and nursing student research assistants conducted a patient-oriented research project on the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presented to seniors. This study was funded by the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR), Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) and Sask Polytech.

The Sask Polytech applied research nursing team studied the lived experiences of 40 Saskatchewan seniors age 60 years and older who have experienced challenges with physical distancing and social isolation during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers interviewed participants three times each throughout the spring.

“Early results from the research indicated that seniors experienced challenges with emotions including loneliness, anxiety, and low-mood due to disruptions in their routine, the inability to visit with friends and family, and lack of regular exercise,” says Heather Nelson, Sask Polytech research chair, Vulnerable Populations.

The study found that seniors utilized various coping methods to stay connected with friends and family, including the use of technology. Seniors also stayed physically active by walking outdoors and gardening.

“We hope that the information learned in this study, along with the videos created, can be used to educate seniors and their families on the challenges of social isolation and tips on how to thrive during the pandemic,” shares Nelson.

As winter approaches, it is important to keep in mind COVID-19 challenges will be magnified and coping measures will become even more important. Here are eight tips from this research project for seniors to help care for their physical and mental health during the pandemic: exercise, engage in hobbies, communicate with friends, use family as support, stay engaged with church and community groups, volunteer, keep a regular routine, and reach out if you need help.

“The Centre for Health Research, Improvement and Scholarship (CHRIS) supports faculty in the School of Health Sciences and the School of Nursing in achieving their scholarly development goals and aspirations,” says Dr. Larry Rosia, Sask Polytech president and CEO. “Thank you and congratulations to Heather; Sandra Blevins, dean for the Schools of Health Sciences and Nursing, and the CHRIS team for this great research on the impact of COVID-19 on seniors and for tips to help seniors cope with the pandemic in the coming months.”

“Heather and her team have utilized a variety of SCPOR supports to ensure their team is embracing patient-oriented research and engaging patients meaningfully, including funding to engage patients at the outset of the research, matched funding for two trainees on the project and support for knowledge translation,” says Jackie Mann, executive director of SCPOR. “Heather’s team has embraced the patient-oriented research concept while contributing to this important work. We’re pleased to support the team in their research and excited to see the outcomes of their research.”

“We know our role as a funder is to not only support discoveries that will lead to better health, but to ensure this knowledge makes it into the hands of those who will use it,” says Patrick Odnokon, SHRF CEO. “The work of Heather Nelson and her team to understand and meet the needs of seniors with videos and other resources will go a long way to ensuring better health for Saskatchewan citizens during this pandemic.”

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