How to Fight the Social Isolation of Coronavirus


Loneliness is a real health issue — and these steps can help save lives by Erwin Tan, M.D., AARP, March 16, 2020 

En español | A recent scientific report elevates social isolation and loneliness to the level of health problems, associating them with a significantly increased risk for early death from all causes. Of course, social isolation and loneliness can become more common with age. And the arrival of the novel coronavirus will almost certainly make the problem worse.

Public officials are asking that we all socially distance ourselves to prevent COVID-19’s spread. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that those age 60 and older avoid crowds, and that those in a community with an outbreak stay home as much as possible.

Travel bans and recommendations to avoid nonessential air travel may mean that distant family members may not be able to connect in person. And the COVID-19 outbreak could last for weeks or months.

Here are some things to keep in mind to reduce the threat of social isolation and loneliness as the pandemic continues:

1. Social isolation and loneliness are serious health issues

These related conditions affect a significant proportion of adults in the United States and have been calculated as being the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

According to the scientific report mentioned above, published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and funded by AARP Foundation, 43 percent of adults age 60 or older in the U.S. reported feeling lonely.

A 2017 study showed that social isolation among older adults is associated with an estimated $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending annually. At the same time, people 60 and older and people with severe chronic health conditions — such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes — are at higher risk for developing more serious illness from COVID-19. Americans will all likely experience increased social isolation and loneliness in combatting the pandemic. Identifying these additional health risks and developing mitigation plans are important first steps.

2. Plan and connect

It’s important to talk to family and friends to develop a plan to safely stay in regular touch as we socially distance ourselves, or if we are required to self-quarantine for a possible exposure or are in isolation for a COVID-19 infection. This plan should confirm whom you can reach out to if you need help accessing food, medicine and other medical supplies.

It’s also important that communication and planning allow us to remain safely connected as we practice social distancing. Involve another element: actual social connection. Remaining connected is especially important for people who live alone; regular social contact can be a lifeline for support if they develop symptoms. Regularly scheduled phone calls and video conferences along with texting and emails can help compensate for a lack of in-person contact. So take a break from news stories and social media; hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting, and it’s important to talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Family and friends will need to work together to make sure they can remain connected without exposing each other to COVID-19. Look at your schedule and identify social connections that might be disrupted during an outbreak and consider alternative solutions to stay connected. If you are a family caregiver or have someone close to you who’s more at risk of social isolation, discuss what will happen if either of you develops symptoms and whom you could call on for support or help.

3. Make a list of organizations that can help

Create a list of community and faith-based organizations that you or the people in your plan can contact in the event you lack access to information, health care services, support and resources. If your neighborhood has a website or social media page and you haven’t joined it, consider doing so to stay connected to neighbors, information and resources. Consider including on your list organizations that provide mental health or counseling services as well as food and other supplies. State and local governments are setting up resource lists for those affected by COVID-19. The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also has an online locator and hotline, at 800-662-HELP (4357), to help people find counseling services near where they live. AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect program provides information, self-assessments and affordable options for low-income older people to stay connected.

4. Remember pets (their value and their needs)

Pets can help combat loneliness, and some pets have been linked with owners’ longevity. The World Health Organization has also determined that dogs cannot get coronavirus. Still, it’s always important to wash your hands after contact with your pets. And just as you need to ensure you have sufficient supplies for yourself and family, be stocked with food and other supplies for your pets.

5. Know who’s most at risk for social isolation and loneliness

People at the highest risk of developing more serious illness from COVID-19 and who should be the most vigilant about social distancing will also be the most at risk of increased social isolation and loneliness. For example, the CDC has recommended that long-term care facilities discourage visitation.

Moreover, those under quarantine or in isolation will experience additional emotional and, possibly, financial hardship. While planning will be important, understand that many people are likely to experience increased social isolation and loneliness.

COVID-19 has also magnified existing disparities for low-income older adults. Internet coverage gaps — the so-called digital divide — are more prevalent in many places, especially low-income communities. These areas are often the last to get broadband and often at slower speeds, leaving these communities at an ongoing disadvantage.

If public sources of internet access such as libraries and commercial establishments close, regular phone calls will be increasingly important for friends and families to remain connected.

I asked my older neighbor across the street last week if she needed help with groceries and if she could pass along my phone number to her children, who live out of town, so they would have another contact on the same street as their mother. That personal interaction reminded me that COVID-19 is testing the bonds that connect us all. Reaching out to our friends, families and neighbors can help protect all of us from COVID-19 as well as social isolation and loneliness.

Erwin Tan, M.D., is a director at AARP Thought Leadership. His areas of expertise include geriatric and integrative medicine, health longevity, volunteering and perceptions of aging.

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When — and Where — to Get Your Flu Shot

Experts say the flu vaccine is key to avoiding ‘twindemic’ by Sarah Elizabeth Adler, AARP, August 27, 2020 

En español | The latest worry for doctors and health experts across the country is the possibility of a “twindemic” — an overlap between coronavirus outbreaks and flu cases during the upcoming 2020-2021 flu season — that could sicken countless Americans and overburden the nation’s health care system.

Older adults in particular are at higher risk of severe illness from both COVID-19 and influenza, which experts say makes getting a flu shot this year — including timing your shot and choosing the right type of vaccine — more important than ever.

When should I get vaccinated?

Flu shot availability began popping up at pharmacy chains and doctors’ offices this summer, but when it comes to getting the shot, earlier isn’t better. “The best time to get vaccinated is from mid-September through the month of October,” says William Schaffner, M.D., medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

That’s because the immunity conferred by the flu shot wanes over time, particularly for older adults. Getting vaccinated too soon, for instance, in August, could mean losing protection while the 2020-2021 flu season is still in full swing.

Experts aren’t able to predict how long a given flu season will last, but activity typically peaks between December and February and can last as late as May.

Which flu shot is right for me?

Adults 65 and older should ask their health care provider for either the high-dose or adjuvanted flu vaccine, Schaffner says, both of which produce a stronger immune response (and therefore more protection against the flu) in older adults.

This year, the high-dose vaccine is quadrivalent instead of trivalent — meaning it protects against four strains of flu instead of three — and a quadrivalent version of the adjuvanted vaccine will also be available.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), manufacturers are ramping up their flu vaccine production this year, with no significant delays in distribution reported so far.

Where can I get the flu shot?

Some locations that typically offer flu shots, like workplaces, won’t be able to this year due to concerns around maintaining coronavirus precautions such as social distancing.

But pharmacies (including national chains like CVS and Walgreens), doctors’ offices and health departments around the country are still offering vaccines, which are typically free with insurance. (Find a location near you with the CDC’s VaccineFinder tool.)

Schaffner says that some medical practices in suburban areas are even planning to host drive-up flu shot clinics, which will allow people to get vaccinated without stepping foot in the office.

Others, he says, have already shifted their scheduling to offer flu shot-only appointments in the morning or late afternoon, which help patients minimize the time they spend inside and around others.

No matter where you go, be prepared to wear a face mask during your appointment and to observe other COVID-related precautions, like getting a temperature check and waiting 6 feet away from other patients.

Schaffner acknowledges that while many people have concerns about visiting a medical facility during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no question as to the flu vaccine’s importance, particularly for older adults — and no other way to get one.

Or, as he puts it, “it’s hard to vaccinate via telemedicine.”

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PRESS RELEASE: AgeSmart Community Resources Receives Prestigious Aging Innovations Award from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a)

For Immediate Release                                       Date:  September 24, 2020

O’Fallon, IL – AgeSmart Community Resources announces that its Senior Skip Day Program recently received a 2020 Aging Innovations Award from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), the highest honor presented by n4a to member agencies. The awards program is supported by Centene. Senior Skip Day, in partnership with Greenville University, provided a day of service pairing older adults with college students, was among the top 17 of 44 local aging programs to receive honors during the n4a Virtual Conference & Tradeshow, September 22.

The 2020 n4a Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards recognizes n4a’s Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and Title VI Native American aging programs members that develop and implement cutting-edge approaches to support older adults, people with disabilities and their family caregivers. Among the selection criteria was the ease with which other agencies could replicate the program in their communities. 

“n4a is thrilled to present the Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards to a diverse and remarkable group of Area Agencies on Aging. We salute all those who have enhanced the prestige of this awards program by sharing their innovative initiatives with their peers in the Aging Network,” said Sandy Markwood, Chief Executive Officer of n4a.

Senior Skip Day, was initiated to bring students and older adults together, prevent social isolation, and bridge the gap between generations. Students were matched with seniors in their community and volunteered to provide much needed assistance at the homes of older adults. Students participated in activities including yard work, painting, small repair projects, gardening and cleaning. “Seeing the interaction between the students and the older adults was heartwarming. It provided a great learning experience for all participants. Reaching out and supporting our older adults builds a stronger and healthier community.” said Joy Paeth, CEO of AgeSmart Community Resources.

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AgeSmart’s New Learning Channel Featured on

“Kay got involved with AgeSmart Community Resources, her local area agency on aging resource center, through a friend.

“Judy asked me if I would be interested in trying a GetSetup class offered by them. I am game to try anything. I’ve parachuted out of an airplane at 13,000 feet so, I said — ‘yeah sure!’ ”

At 78 years old Kay is no stranger to technology. She and her husband regularly use Facetime and Skype to help out their daughter as virtual grandparents. Kay is the grandparent of her daughter’s 9-year-old twins and has been in constant contact with them since the pandemic started…”

CLICK HERE to read full article.

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VOTING IN ILLINOIS Absentee Ballot Process

Absentee voting is available and no excuse is required. The last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is 5 days before the election. Voted ballots must be received by election day in order to be counted.

You do not need an excuse to vote absentee in Illinois.

You can request an absentee ballot:

  • In person – no more than 90 days but before 1 day before the election
  • By mail inside the US – no more than 90 days or less than 5 days before the election
  • By mail outside the US – no less than 30 days before the election (to receive the full ballot), or less than 30 days but no more than 10 days before the election to receive the Federal Ballot only

You can start voting the absentee ballot 40 days before the election.

Steps to request an absentee ballot:

STEP 1: Obtain the proper application for an absentee ballot, either by mail or in person, from your election authority.

STEP 2: Upon receipt, complete the application. Make certain to include your name, home address, address where you want the ballot to be mailed, and please remember to sign the application.

STEP 3: After completing the application, either mail it or hand-deliver it to your election authority. If you return the application in person or complete the application in the election authority’s office, you may immediately vote with your absentee ballot in the election authority’s office. If you mail the application and it is properly completed, the election authority will mail your absentee ballot to you.

STEP 4: After receiving your ballot, VOTE THE BALLOT IN SECRET. Insert the ballot into the envelope provided, seal it, complete and sign the certification on the back and PERSONALLY return it or mail it. The absentee voter may authorize, in writing, that a spouse, parent, child, brother, sister, or licensed motor carrier, should deliver the completed absentee ballot to the election authority in sufficient time to be delivered to the polling place on Election Day.

More information available at

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Illinois Aging Network Alert

 August 3, 2020 

 ISSUE: Importance of Flu Vaccine – Reduce Hospitalizations 

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season is from October to April. As flu season approaches flu vaccine manufacturers are boosting production. The CDC has ordered 14 times the doses it typically purchases. Getting a flu shot doesn’t protect against coronavirus but even a moderately effective flu vaccine can mitigate the severe symptoms and potentially reduce hospitalizations. Fewer than half of Americans get a flu shot even though a vaccine is recommended for everyone over 6 months old. 

Older Adults can face severe complications from the flu. The human immune defense weakens as we age. Flu is much more serious for older adults and it is very important that they get a flu shot. According to the CDC, an estimated 70%-85% of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older, and between 50%-70% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in this age group. People with chronic illnesses can also face serious complications from the flu. As coronavirus cases continue to rise there is a deep concern that older adults will not venture out to get their flu shots. Not only is this a concern for the older adult, but fewer flu cases can reduce the need for hospital space that is needed to combat COVID19. 

Getting a flu shot is the responsible thing to do and can help reduce the transmission to other not just an older relative but others a person may encounter in the community. This year the flu vaccine is even more critical and can help our state get through the fall and combat the need for more hospital space. 

As a leader we ask that the state help raise awareness and assist our already struggling health departments get the message out to get a flu shot! 

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