When the Omicron COVID-19 variant was first detected in November 2021, most felt extreme disappointment and disheartenment. It seemed like there was light at the end of the tunnel, only to realize that wasn’t the case. Families that were just getting back together had to isolate again, and our senior community members were hit hard by the new variant.
Since the pandemic has had such a profound impact on our seniors, Omicron’s appearance has made life even more challenging for our community. Here we examine how the Omicron COVID variant has impacted our seniors, as well as potential ways that everyone can help mitigate some of these problems.
Fewer Opportunities for Physical Fitness
In many places, gyms and fitness centers were beginning to open back up to the public. Others were already open and were scaling their operations to include more people. Since Omicron is highly contagious, many gyms shut down again – many of these centers catered to older populations or gyms that had senior fitness classes stopped operating.
This is one of the significant impacts Omicron has had – fewer activities for seniors, both physical and social. With many seniors who are able to pursue fitness outside of the home, gyms shutting down causes many problems. And for seniors who rely more on fitness through specialized senior centers or group activities, they also could be having problems.
One potential solution to this could be for seniors to consult with a professional about the best exercises to do at home. This minimizes the possible spread of Omicron because the consultation can be done via phone or Zoom and helps the senior stay physically fit!
The senior community is already more susceptible to mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, especially because of isolation. In fact, the effects of isolation on mental health in the elderly have become an extra important topic as Omicron cases skyrocket.
Before Omicron, vaccinated seniors and their families could start to interact and get back to some semblance of normal. But because of how contagious Omicron is, that interaction has likely stopped, leading to even worse isolation than before.
One way to help combat isolation and keep your senior loved ones mentally engaged is to just check in on them as often as you can. Make them feel that you are connected, whether it’s through a scheduled phone call or zoom meeting. Since most of us can’t be together physically, putting together a personal communication plan with your senior can really help them.
One question that often comes up related to mental health is how does malnutrition relate to depression and loneliness in seniors? Especially since the onset of Omicron, nutrition has also become a significant issue for seniors and one that many organizations are working to fix.
Availability of Groceries
For many of the seniors in the Meals on Wheels meal delivery program, accessing affordable and high-quality food was already a struggle. Many seniors live in more rural areas with few stores, or the high cost of groceries inflates their budgets beyond what they can actually afford.
At the height of the pandemic, many seniors were scared to go grocery shopping in general, but the Omicron variant has made it that much harder. Supply chain distribution has made access even worse, and food insecurity among seniors is on the rise.
If you are concerned about the availability of food in your senior loved one’s area, one potential help would be to rely on grocery delivery services. The pandemic expanded the availability (and adoption) of major grocery chains delivering to individual households. Seniors in many areas can receive their groceries right to their doorsteps.
How Meals on Wheels of Contra Costa Can Help
Our mission is to serve seniors in Contra Costa: although we are limited in helping with physical activity, we can help potentially offset the effects of Omicron on their mental and emotional health by decreasing stress with the Contra Costa senior meals program.
Our partner’s currently provide more weekly or daily meals to over two thousand seniors weekly in our community. Not only does that provide them with their necessary nutritional needs, but delivery drivers also check in on the seniors. Doing wellness checks not only ensures that they are physically doing well,l but also is a friendly face that cares about their mental wellbeing. All of the COVID protocols that keep our seniors safe are in place.
There are many ways that you can help Meals on Wheels of Contra Costa help our seniors thrive through the COVID-19 pandemic: you can spread the word about our mission, volunteer with our office, or through our partners as a delivery driver, and donate towards the meal delivery program. Every volunteer and donor makes it so we can continue our work and our partners can help more seniors. All of us together can help make a difference in the lives of our senior community!