The elderly's sense of control changes in the pandemic

Making an assessment on the psychological impact of the pandemic on the elderly, Gerontologist F. Sıla Ayan said: “With the pandemic, the daily routines of the elderly people, the care and support they receive, their ability to stay socially connected and their sense of control are changing day by day.”

The elderly's sense of control changes in the pandemic

Increasing coronavirus cases brought new measures with it. The curfew imposed on the weekend was also applied to people over 65. Accordingly, people aged 65 and over will be able to go out on the streets between 10.00 and 13.00 in all cities, and the ban will continue both on weekdays and on weekends for people over 65. Lecturer F. Sıla Ayan from Istanbul Gelişim University Gerontology Department, who stated that anxiety, illness and fear of death may also be seen in the elderly who take a break from their work and education activities and change their daily routines in accordance with the restrictions, added: “Seniors are struggling with basic prevention strategies based on spending more time at home, as well as negative emotions caused by the lack of contact and communication with family members, friends and colleagues. It is therefore important that we create opportunities to psychologically promote healthy aging during the pandemic.”


Pointing out that emotion regulation is very important for naming and managing emotions in a constructive way, Ayan said: “These conscious and implicit strategies change and transform from year to year in our life stream. Our response to physical, biographical, and emotional stresses is centered on options to fight it, escape it, or deny it. When the stress management and emotion regulation mechanisms of the elderly are observed, four main groups appear. These groups are highly optimizers, high differentiators, integrators and self-preserving ones.”


Ayan continued as follows:

“According to the data in the literature, the elderly group, which is called the high optimizer, develops strategies with assimilative methods, that is, without trying to make sense of their feelings, without making deep questioning and paying attention to the problem, while the highly differentiating group adopts the opposite attitude. In this respect, high differentiations versus optimizers with high self-confidence always seek to examine themselves and their environment, future projections, emotions and interactions. We observe higher demand, profitability and anxiety level, both psychologically and physically, in elderly people who are focused on self-protection. The group we find the most healthy and balanced is people with integrated emotion regulation attitude who can use all these strategies as a tool at a good functional level. These people have a critical rationale for questioning and interpreting the source of stress, and letting themselves go to the flow of uncertainty when necessary. In other words, it can interpret thoughts and feelings in a controlled manner. In order to support the integrated emotion regulation of the elderly, not only physiological health but also emotional and social needs should not be ignored.”


Giving information about how to strengthen emotion regulation strategies in the elderly, Ayan said: “For emotion regulation, individual-oriented interventions within functional abilities are essential. In the gerontology literature, we evaluate individual competences separately in terms of general competencies, partial competencies and sense of control-competence. In this sense, individual counseling programs, training and group strengthening organizations designed to support the cognitive development of the elderly and designed in accordance with pandemic measures, active use of technology and telecare are of great importance in these days when we all have concerns about the loss of control over our lives and routines during the pandemic process. In accordance with the isolation measures in the institutions, we started to see burnout in the professional staff working as inpatients, just like our healthcare workers. It is very important to strengthen the elderly and all actors affected by this experience together and individually according to their needs and to prevent them from being detached from life.”


Emphasizing that the elderly should pay attention to social distance measures against the pandemic, Ayan said, “They should protect their physical health. The active use of technological communication channels should be given importance. The importance of artistic activities should not be forgotten. Seniors with cognitive competence can keep short diaries to reconcile their experiences and feelings. As in the example of the "Story Box Project" implemented in the UK, positive emotion can be achieved with the pleasure of nostalgic transmissions between generations and peers from past to present.”


Speaking about caregivers and family members during the pandemic process, Ayan stated that they can get online consultancy regarding the anxiety of people and said, “The Sunset Phenomenon and psychotic attacks seen in dementia patients can increase with the tension of other members at home, monotony and access to services due to pandemic restrictions. Combining calmness, empathy and therapeutic activities can be recommended to divert attention from the anxiety-causing developments on the agenda.”

Edited date: 25.11.2020
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