Tom Meuser discusses efforts to assist older adults during the COVID-19 crisis with Maine Public
The topic of the program was the impact of the coronavirus on older adults and the support that is available to them.
“What I'm hearing from folks is that there is an increase of anxiety and worry over this situation,” Meuser told host Jennifer Rooks. “There is an increase in depression, and that worries me because prolonged isolation and depression often go hand-in-hand. That's something we have to think about in terms of the outreach we're doing in our communities.”
According to the CDC, older adults are at higher risk for severe illness from the virus, and eighty-percent of the deaths from coronavirus are occurring in people age 65 and older. As the oldest state in the nation, the figure is especially troubling for Maine.
Meuser says he’s working on approaches designed to address the mental health needs of older adults who are experiencing isolation.
“With our center on aging at UNE, this crisis has caused us to really rethink our approach,” he explained. “We're developing a series of online peer discussion groups where people can just get together, talk about what it's like to be in this situation, share tips, and offer mutual support. We're also developing fun learning topics. This is drawing out people from across our university who want to help out and it's really exciting.”
Despite their vulnerability, Meuser reminded listeners that older adults are also very resilient.
“If you have lived 70 or 80 years, you’ve been through tough times before and you have resources within yourself to draw on,” he said. “I actually take a lot of comfort in that, personally.”