“Over the past few months, the whole world has gone through a near-death experience,” said Ken Dychtwald, CEO of Age Wave, a think tank on global aging. “We had to stop and think: I could die or someone I love could die. When these things happen, people think about what matters and what they will do differently. “
Seniors are particularly vulnerable because their immune systems tend to deteriorate with age, making them much more difficult to fight not only against COVID-19, but against all infectious diseases. They are also more likely to suffer from other health conditions, such as heart and respiratory disease, which make them harder to fight or cure from illness.
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So it’s no surprise that even in the future, when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available – and widely used – most older people will take extra precautions.
“Before COVID-19, baby boomers – those born after 1945 but before 1965 – felt reassured that with all the benefits of modern medicine, they could live for years and years,” said Dr Mehrdad Ayati , who teaches geriatric medicine at Stanford University. School of Medicine and advises the US Senate Special Committee on Aging. “What we have never calculated is that a pandemic could totally change the dialogue. “
He has. Here’s a look at post-vaccination life for older Americans:
- It’s time to learn all about healthcare online. Only 62% of people over 75 use the internet – and less than 28% are comfortable with social media, according to data from the Pew Research Center. “It’s deadly in the modern era of health care,” Dychtwald said. So there will be a drumbeat to make them fluent users of online healthcare.
- 1 in 3 visits will be telemedicine. Dr Ronan Factora, a geriatrician at the Cleveland Clinic, said he had not seen any patients aged 60 and over via telemedicine before the pandemic. He predicted that by the time a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, at least a third of those visits will be virtual. “It will become an important part of my practice,” he said. Older patients will likely see their doctor more than once a year for a check-up and will benefit from improved general health care, he said.
- Lots of doctors instead of just one. More regular remote care will be bolstered by a team of doctors, said Dr Greg Poland, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic. The team model “allows me to see more patients more effectively,” he said. “If everyone has to come into the office and wait for the nurse to get them out of the waiting room, well, that’s an inherent drag on my productivity.
- Pharmacies will do more vaccinations. To avoid germs in doctor’s offices, older patients will prefer to go to pharmacies for regular vaccinations such as flu shots, Factora said.
- Your plumbing will be your doctor. In the not too distant future – maybe just a few years away – older Americans will have special devices at home to regularly analyze urine and fecal samples, Dychtwald said, allowing them to bypass the cabinet. of the doctor.
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Plans. Many trips of 800 miles or less will likely become road trips instead of flights, said Ed Perkins, a unionized travel columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Perkins, who is 90, said that was definitely what he planned to do – even after a vaccine.
- Regional and local travel will replace travel abroad. Dychtwald, who is 70, said he would be much less inclined to travel abroad. For example, he said, one-off plans with his wife to visit India are now unlikely, even if a good vaccine is available, as they want to avoid large concentrations of people. That said, each year, just 25% of people 65 and over travel outside the United States, compared to 45% of the general population, according to a survey by Visa V,
. The most popular trip for the elderly: visiting grandchildren.
- The demand for business class will increase. When older travelers who are financially able to choose to fly, they will book spacious business class seats more frequently because they won’t want to sit too close to other passengers, Factora said.
- Buy three seats for two. Older couples who fly together – and have money – will pay for all three seats on a flight so no one is between them, Perkins said.
- The hotels will market the medical care. Medical capacity will be built into more travel options, Dychtwald said. For example, some hotels advertise a doctor on site or nearby. “Gone are the days of being taken out of healthcare and feeling comfortable,” Dychtwald said.
- Disinfection will be a sales pitch. Expect a rich combination of health and safety “theater” – especially on cruises that welcome many older travelers. Perkins said, “Employees will be wandering around with disinfectant mists and wiping everything ten times.”
- Cruises will require proof of vaccination. Passengers – as well as cruise employees – will likely need to prove they’ve been vaccinated before traveling, Factora said.
- Local restaurants will gain trust. Neighborhood restaurants and small markets will attract loyal customers – mainly because they know and trust the owners, said Christopher Muller, professor of hospitality at Boston University.
- Safety will be the boast point of a restaurant. To attract older customers in particular, restaurants will prominently display safety inspection signage and visibly mark their cleanliness standards, Muller said. They’ll even hire employees exclusively to clean tables, chairs, and any high touch points – and those employees will be easy to identify and highly visible.
Home life and shopping
- The return. Due to the number of deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes, more seniors will be leaving assisted living centers and retirement homes to move in with their families, Factora said. “Families usually get closer to each other,” he said.
- The fortress. Home delivery of almost everything will become the norm for older Americans, and in-person purchases will become much less common, Factora said.
- An increase in grocery deliveries. The workforce aged 60 and over will be increasingly reluctant to work elsewhere than at home and will be very slow to return to the grocery store. “Instacart delivery will become the new standard for them,” Dychtwald said.
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- Forced social distancing. Whenever or wherever large families gather, people with COVID-like symptoms may not be welcome under any circumstances, Ayati said.
- The elderly will disengage, at a cost. Depression will skyrocket among the elderly who isolate themselves from family reunions and large gatherings, Ayati said. “While the elderly population gives up on engaging in society, this is a very bad thing.”
- Public toilets will be renovated. To avoid germs, they will have more and more toilets, urinals, sinks, entry and exit without contact. “One of the most disastrous places you can go is the public toilet,” Poland said. “It’s pretty much the riskiest place.”