Covid-19 restrictions may be poised to disappear almost completely later this month, but many older people – many of them still of working age – remain anxious, demotivated and even depressed about life ‘beyond’ the pandemic.
Research by the charity Age UK has highlighted what it is calling the “alarming” and ongoing impact the pandemic has had on the mental health and confidence of many older people, including in some cases accelerating previous or chronic health conditions.
Many older people are reporting their sleep patterns remain disturbed, and that they now lack the confidence or motivation to get back to doing normal everyday activities. In some cases, older people were reporting feeling hopeless and even suicidal, Age UK warned.
The research argued that, compared to before the pandemic, 4.1 million older people (33%) said they now felt more anxious, with a similar percentage (34% or 4.3 million people) feeling less motivated to do the things they enjoy.
Further research had indicated that, during the pandemic, the proportion of over-70s who were depressed had doubled, with 1.8 million people aged 60 and over reporting moderate to severe depressive symptoms in the summer of 2021, the charity said.
Older people with depression frequently experience physical symptoms, such as tiredness, weight loss, and problems sleeping. The research found that 2.9 million (23%) of older people agreed they were finding it harder to remember things now than they did at the start of the pandemic, and only 4.3 million (34%) disagreed that they had been sleeping well.
Older worker wellbeing
In addition, 5.1 million (41%) said they felt lonely, 3.4 million (27%) said they now spoke less to family, and three million (24%) felt less close to family as a result of the pandemic.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said: “The pandemic has had a big impact on everyone of all ages and very few of us are emerging from the last two years completely unscathed.
“However, talking about mental health and wellbeing is not something most older people have traditionally done, so they need to know it’s ok – perfectly normal in fact,” she added.