Caring for the elderly amidst COVID-19

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    The elderly is a group of people who need special care and comfort to lead a healthy life with less worries and anxiety. Now more than ever, prioritizing healthcare for the elderly is more important and critical as the COVID-19 pandemic presents specific risks for older people.

    Among adults, the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk. With age, the immune system becomes slower to respond to a threat like an infection, so older adults are more likely to get sick and develop more severe symptoms.

    Currently, 8.2 million of the Philippine’s 109 million people are in the 60 and above age group, with almost 5 percent of the population aged 65 years and above. That is why it is necessary to ensure that the elderly are protected from COVID-19 without being isolated, stigmatized, left in a position of increased vulnerability or unable to access basic provisions and social care.

    The University of the Philippines (UP) – College of Medicine’s Mu Sigma Phi Medical Sorority, Asia’s first recognized medical sorority has a flagship project called W.I.S.E. or Well-being Initiatives and Support for the Elderly. This project aims to capacitate communities with knowledge on the issues faced by the geriatric population, aged 60 years and older.

    For this year, the UP Mu Sigma Phi Medical Sorority is maximizing ways digital technology can be used to creatively and engagingly educate their audience. The W.I.S.E campaign launched “Sine GaMUtan,” an animated webinar series that focuses on the general well-being of the elderly, the importance of immunization in the time of COVID-19, and health literacy on common diseases affecting the geriatric group.

    Senior citizens are highly vulnerable due to their weakened immune systems and pre-existing health conditions. They have a greater likelihood of acquiring illnesses, including pneumonia from bacterial and viral causes, with symptoms similar to COVID-19. Even the elderly who are considered healthy may still be susceptible to pneumonia and its consequences.

    With age comes many changes in the body and unfortunately, one of these is having a higher risk of acquiring illnesses. Observing a healthy lifestyle may not be enough to protect from microbes that can cause fatal diseases like pneumonia. Senior citizens particularly need protection through immunization to help ensure their health.

    As a health intervention, vaccination helps lessen the burden on public health systems and protects the general population from exposure to infectious diseases. Without immunization services, susceptible age groups like the elderly will be most at risk of exposure to a number of other deadly diseases apart from COVID-19.

    The whole COVID-19 pandemic has enabled us to look after the health of our loved ones, especially the elderly group which is considered a vulnerable group. The UP Mu Sigma Phi Sorority, together with its partners – healthcare company MSD in the Philippines, National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, Manila City’s Liga ng mga Barangay, Cagayan De Oro City’s Office for the Senior Citizen Affairs, Central Senior Citizens Association (CESCA), and clinicians especially Geriatric specialists, invites everyone to learn how they can provide care and protect the elderly especially now that the world is in the midst of a pandemic.