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What we know:
The past year has brought forth a whirlwind of unprecedented times. COVID-19 has altered normal life and activities for all through safety measures and stay-at-home orders – but older adults are the true victims of COVID-19. As the ground shifts beneath our feet, we must challenge ourselves to think about the future of the older adults around us once life eases back to normal again. How might major changes like staying at home for an extended period of time, social distancing from others, and less physical activity impact older adults long-term and post-pandemic?

What happens when COVID-19 is managed? 
When the COVID-19 dust settles and life returns to a new normal, we need a population of empowered older adults to come out of this. If older adults don’t have access to the proper resources to help with lack of physical activity, anxiety, depression and social isolation, we’ll likely see another pandemic emerge for older adults experiencing the catastrophic effects of deconditioning. In fact, if nothing is done, we should expect older adults to demonstrate the equivalent detrimental effects of a prolonged hospital stay due to the extreme nature of their confinement. 

Meeting older adults’ needs:
We must always look through the lens of older adults – what might happen when they’re scared to leave their home to attend community-based wellness programs? Even before COVID-19, only one out of ten older adults left their home for wellness offerings. Many older adults may  now be fearful of leaving their homes specifically because of physical decline from deconditioning. Here at Nymbl, we are determined and dedicated  to helping older adults regain their lost balance and confidence, and we need other organizations to join our in-home efforts to address the whole person.

What older adults are currently suffering from most:
Deconditioning: Many older adults suffer from deconditioning as a result of physical decline and lack of mobility, and because of the pandemic, we can expect to see more older adults on this path. Deconditioning can easily lead to falls from the decrease in muscle and strength over time. One of our partners, Arvada Fire Protection District, states falls as their No. 1 type of medical call, reporting an average of six fall-related calls per day requiring EMS. Most fall-related calls result in transporting, and oftentimes leave a lasting negative impact on older adults and their loss of independence, sometimes even leaving them unable to return to their prior living environment. With COVID-19 forcing less physical activity for older adults, it’s extremely important to provide a proper intervention for falling; one that meets their spectrum of unique needs in the safety of their homes; which Nymbl does – Nymbl’s daily balance training program meets older adults’ needs in the comfort and safety of their homes, improving their balance and has been shown to help increase their confidence and independence.

Social isolation: While stay at home orders help limit exposure to coronavirus, older adults are experiencing social isolation and loneliness from staying at home more than any other age group. They are restricted from most of their normal daily activities and as a result, we’re seeing reduced physical activity and higher depression rates while isolated. The sudden increase in social isolation has taken a toll on many older adults’ mental and physical decline as well as cognitive and emotional wellbeing, also shown to increase the risk of dementia.

Anxiety and Depression: In August 2020, 24 percent of older adults reported anxiety and depression, compared to only 11 percent of older adults in 2018. Many older adults do not have or know of the proper resources to help with the stress of COVID-19, or are simply afraid or unwilling to leave their homes during this time. Anxiety and depression are also closely related to falling. Older adults who are experiencing anxiety are more prone to have a heightened fear of falling and overthink their movements, which can override their natural reflexive movements. Older adults who have depression tend to move slower and may not be as motivated to participate in daily activities, also largely contributing to deconditioning.

The next steps:
One of the common and unfortunate consequences of deconditioning, social isolation, and anxiety and depression is that they can all increase the likelihood of an older adult falling. If older adults don’t receive the proper resources to help, we will likely see another pandemic emerge for older adults experiencing these issues. In order to prevent older adults from going down this path to declining health, we must band together to support older adults through the new challenges they might face after the COVID-19 pandemic has closed.
 
By putting older adults and their physical and mental wellness top of mind, we can make a meaningful impact and help enhance the quality of their lives. Join us in preventing 1 million falls today and see how your organization’s older adults could benefit from Nymbl’s daily balance training by visiting www.nymblscience.com or contacting our Director of Sales, Emma, at emma@nymblscience.com – we would love to hear from your organization.