Resilience will be key to enduring Covid-19
01 April 2020 | 0 Comment
Kraydel’s mission is to enable and increase the resilience and independence of the elderly.
Resilience is an essential element in dealing with challenges, and the elderly are now facing challenges on a scale not seen in the West since the second World War. Of course it’s not just the elderly that are being challenged, today’s younger generations are experiencing something with which their great grandparents were entirely familiar: the recognition that humans are not in total control of their world. Things can go badly wrong and stay that way for a long time, and the lives we lead and pleasures we enjoy are not guaranteed.
Resilience is a multi-dimensional characteristic of a human being. There are physical components – strength, mobility, good health, an effective immune system etc, but the more interesting components are actually not physical at all. They are mental health, social connectivity, and spiritual.
Let’s unpack those a little. Good mental health we can all understand – freedom from anxiety, and depression. Or to turn it around: happiness and a positive outlook. But these in turn come primarily from the other two components: social and spiritual.
Spiritual in this context doesn’t mean religion as such (organised or other), it means having a sense of purpose, self-worth and being invested in something. These could be hobbies, family, a cause of some kind. One of the most difficult transitions for an elderly parent is coping with the change from being a provider to their children in all its various forms: care, support, finance, child-minding, DIY, or just advice, to being provided for. It’s easy to feel that you have no value or purpose if you can no longer offer your kids those things, or even worse, to feel that you’ve become a burden to them. We’re a selfish and busy generation, and usually living apart from elderly parents, which makes the effort involved in parental care much more obvious to both parties. Many of us do realise that it’s an honour and a privilege to repay parents for the love and care they gave us when young, but merely “not feeling yourself to be a burden” is not sufficient for an elderly person to be spiritually well – it requires active interests and the pursuit of goals.
Social connectivity is particularly challenging as mobility declines, and one or the most horrible consequences of Covid-19 is the extended social isolation that many elderly people are now going to endure. Kraydel is one of the very few agetech devices to address social isolation as part of its overall focus on resilience and that’s for good reasons. A recent article in the Scientific American surveyed the current understanding of the importance of belonging to social groups in health. Membership of lots of groups makes people healthier and more resilient. In one study, for example, sociable people were half as likely to get head colds compared to the least sociable. Think about that for a moment – the sociable people were far more exposed to the cold virus, but half as likely to succumb. That’s a very dramatic link between social connectivity and the effectiveness of the immune system. It goes further – decline in memory function, recovery from illness or surgery are all improved in those with the most social groups. It should be noted that it’s the individual’s feelings of social isolation that are important here – it’s not the actual degree of isolation, it’s the degree to which they feel isolated. The risks of heart disease, dementia and stroke are all higher in people who feel lonely.
It’s going to be a very difficult year, especially for the elderly. Self-isolation will reduce the number who contract the virus, but it will reduce their resilience and hence their ability to cope with the virus if they do contract it. It will also increase the incidence of other physical and mental health conditions. So let’s all do what we can to reduce the loneliness of the isolating elderly – we may not be able to visit physically but we can use tech like Kraydel, and for those elderly with tech skills there are PC and phone based video approaches. We can phone, and text, and we can say hello to neighbours through the window. So keep in touch, without touching.