The Australian Seniors Series: Connectivity during COVID-19
Social isolation and distancing due to COVID-19, has presented us all with new challenges and opportunities. It’s changed the ways in which we connect with each other, how we manage our day-to-day lives, the way we grandparent and even the ways in which we take care of our physical and mental health. And without a current end date, some of these changes may be here for quite some time.
Surveying more than 5,000 Australians over 50, The Australian Seniors Series: Connectivity in the Age of COVID-19 report found that while these unprecedented times have inflicted heightened stress and anxiety on many of us, nine in 10 (90%) have adapted well. But, despite our ability to take on a great deal of change in such a short period, the majority of us (97%) feel that society could have done more to ensure that all generations adapted to the conditions, so no one was left behind.
Adapting to the new normal
For many (83%), our families were there for us when the crisis first hit and made extra efforts to stay connected. In fact, three-quarters (74%) of us agree our families discovered new ways to spend time together and keep each other entertained. And perhaps surprisingly, only about a quarter (24%) of us felt frustrated or annoyed with them telling us what to do.
What’s not surprising is that the distance from our children and grandchildren was difficult for many of us to digest, with us sorely missing being able to see them in person (83%). Three in five (61%) of us could not continue looking after our grandchildren due to isolation measures, but more than a quarter (27%) of us were lucky enough to keep playing a similar role. Interestingly, 15 per cent provided care via technology and a similar amount (14%) of us continued to watch over our grandchildren while adhering to social distancing restrictions.
And, with the pandemic on its way to re-shaping our society for the longer-term, it’s interesting to note more than half (56%) of us agreed the current health crisis is refreshing the role grandparents play in child-care.
How have we combatted loneliness?
Even though the words ‘social’ and ‘isolation’ sound lonely when paired together, when it came to feelings of loneliness during the height of the pandemic, almost three in five (59%) of us reported self-isolation had no impact on our personal feelings of loneliness. We noted the top five ways to counteract loneliness as communicating more, engaging in hobbies, remaining positive, keeping busy and exercising.
Though sadly some of us have been negatively impacted, with just under a quarter (24%) of us isolating alone and many of us in less frequent contact with friends and family (62% and 39% respectively) as well as our local community (62%). The quality of contact has also been impacted with almost half (49%) saying the quality of contact with friends is not as high as it once was, and almost a third (32%) saying the same about their family.
Taking care of our physical and mental health
When it comes to our mental and physical health, we have been navigating through these areas in different ways. Almost two-fifths (37%) are either looking to or are already taking better care of our mental health. Connecting with family or friends by phone (73%), focusing on hobbies and personal interests (65%) and maintaining positive thinking and hope for the future (64%) were rated as the top 3 things being done to help improve this area.
Regarding physical health, our daily activities have been challenging to maintain - given restrictions and shutdowns. Around a third of us (31%) have found it difficult to keep up with time spent outdoors, following usual exercise routines, avoiding overeating, maintaining the same daily frequency of exercise and keeping up with time spent exercising in general.
However, like we adapted in other areas, we are finding new ways to continue our active lifestyles. These include going for walks (75%), doing exercise routines inside the house (44%), starting to use home gym equipment (24%), following exercise videos (19%) and even participating in livestream classes online (16%).
Tech and social isolation
It’s not surprising we found it fairly simple to connect with others virtually, with only a small portion (10%) of us having to join video conferencing services for the first time as a result of the lockdown restrictions that were put in place.
For the 30 per cent of us who are still working, the vast majority (83%) found it easy to adapt to the digital-heavy working style.
In addition to digital platforms keeping us connected, we gravitated towards technology to get us through in other ways including, keeping us informed (68%) and as a source of distraction (57%).
When it comes to technology and our health, we agree telemedicine offers convenience and safety in diagnosing patients without physical contact. However, the lack of face-to-face interaction is a concern for us. The advantages of telemedicine we noted were the following: avoiding exposure to illnesses from other patients (70%), saving time in travelling and waiting (67%) and having the convenience and safety of remaining at home (65%). However, the feature that drives the rise of telemedicine is also the source of concern for us. Two in three (68%) of us point out the downside of telemedicine as inadequate assessment due to lack of physical contact and personal interaction.
Self-Improvement in testing times
The added time spent at home gave us a chance to self-reflect and even focus on becoming the best versions of ourselves. In fact, two in five (40%) of us found this period motivating as it provided the time to pursue self-improvement efforts. These activities included: engaging in hobbies (48%), cooking (46%), putting in more effort to connect with and support friends and family (34%), improving health and fitness (34%) and learning new things (29%).
Furthermore, for those of us still on the daily grind, either outside (16%) or working from home (14%), the global health crisis provided us with an opportunity to re-evaluate our work. More than four in five (82%) of us that are still working felt we reinvented our businesses to adapt to new conditions. On top of this, three in five (57%) looked for new opportunities to work or generate income online and two-fifths (39%) are finding new opportunities for work/generating income online. What’s even more fascinating is almost one in two (46%) said their side hustle has now become their main hustle.
The Big Impact
Overall, this major health crisis has not been all doom and gloom and has given us a chance to self-reflect and evaluate what is ahead – for us and for society in general.
The vast majority (93%) of us, believe that the COVID-19 crisis might open our eyes to the importance of sufficiently funding health and education. On a personal level, we recognise this experience has helped re-evaluate our health and lifestyle habits. In fact, the top thing we noted we wanted to change in our life post - COVID-19 was being healthier, staying fit and exercising more frequently.
Despite the challenges this health crisis has brought to our lives, we continue to pull through and become stronger – something our generation has done time and time again.
Stay tuned for the next chapter of The Australian Seniors Series! A report for Seniors, by Seniors.
1 Jul 2020