Coronavirus crisis continues to severely impact Israeli seniors

Written by on December 13, 2020

Over 47% of the respondents reported a poor mental state, including loneliness, depression and even feelings that “in the current situation, life has no meaning.”

Two elderly women sit on a bench on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on October 26, 2020.  (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)

Two elderly women sit on a bench on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on October 26, 2020.

(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)

The health, emotional state and economic status of seniors in Israel have been severely impacted by the coronavirus crisis, according to a new study by the Eshel social research and development incubator of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) .

The study surveyed 642 Israelis 65-years-old and older. There are about 1.1 million such seniors in Israel, making up about 12% of the population.

Almost half of the respondents (47%) reported a poor mental state, including loneliness, depression and even feelings that “in the current situation, life has no meaning.” This marks a more than 7% rise compared to the last survey conducted by Eshel during the first wave of the virus.

Just over half of the elderly population (51%) reported an increase in symptoms of frailty, while about a third (32%) reported issues with their day-to-day functioning. 

While the number of seniors who have avoided medical check-ups has decreased, 25% of seniors still haven’t completed theirs, mostly out of fear of infection, according to the study.

About 200,000 seniors – almost a fifth of the elderly population – reported that their ability to pay for monthly costs was harmed by the coronavirus crisis, as they received less money from work and there was a rise in costs, among other issues.

Familial and communal support has also eroded since the beginning of the outbreak. The adaptability and willingness to receive assistance shown by many elderly Israelis at the beginning of the outbreak has also declined.

The study found that there were three main ways to help maintain the mental state of elderly citizens: face to face interaction with community members, exercise twice a week and the encouragement of leisure activities and hobbies.

“The elderly population in Israel is not one mass – neither in terms of its needs nor in terms of the responses that need to be developed for them,” said JDC-Eshel executive director Yossi Heymann. “The survey presents us with an up-to-date picture of the situation that helps in understanding the needs and challenges at this time.

“However, the survey shows us that – while we are thinking about the first wave, the second wave and possibly other waves of the coronavirus outbreak – for large sections of the elderly population in Israel there are no waves, but a continuous crisis situation without a break and without rehabilitation and a return to routine,” he said. 

Heymann stressed the importance of investing in measurements of resilience predictors, including digital literacy, face-to-face interaction with people in the community, exercise and leisure activities, as well as familial and communal support.

“Given the understanding that the coronavirus crisis will continue to accompany us for a long time to come, there is an immediate need to develop effective solutions to advance these issues,” he said. “Along with the fact that the proportion of the elderly in the population is expected to double with the increase in life expectancy, investing in these efforts is strategic for the State of Israel in any case to promote a better and more respectable old age.”

The poll for the study was conducted by the ERI Institute.

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