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The Emotional Cost of Coronavirus

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020 | Blog

It seems inescapable right now, whether it’s the news, the papers or your Facebook feed, the Coronavirus (or COVID-19) is everywhere. Starting in China, the illness has since made its way across the world and we are now starting to see it more prominently in Europe and the UK. While the health risks are obviously the biggest cause for concern, it’s important that we consider the likelihood of it causing further feelings of loneliness in the elderly and vulnerable in our society. 


Loneliness in the elderly is already well documented, with over 1.2 million people reporting feelings of loneliness across the UK. Some people can go for numerous days, and even weeks, without human interaction, an experience which can have profoundly negative effects. Social isolation can result in feelings of loneliness, fear of others, or negative self-esteem, as well as other negative symptoms.


As we move forward and start preparing for Coronavirus in the UK, it’s important to take into consideration the isolating effect contagious illnesses can have on people. As more and more people begin to self isolate, it’s likely that the most lonely in our society could potentially sink further into isolation. 


This will probably be made worse by the fact that many of us will probably avoid seeing those we deem as potentially vulnerable. The coronavirus has already shown it can severely affect the elderly, potentially even fatally at times, so it’s understandable that people may avoid elderly relatives if they believe they are at risk.


So, how do we get around this problem? While it may make sense for the majority to limit social visits in the midst of an outbreak, it doesn’t mean that we have to lose contact completely with our relatives.This is the 21st century, the age of the internet, mobile phones and video calls. Now, those things don’t always translate excellently to the older generations, but there are a few steps we can take to maintain communication through this pandemic. 


  1. Schedule daily or weekly calls


Rather than visit your relative, why not get in touch over the phone? A simple phone call for half-an-hour in the evening can go a long way to limiting isolation. Does your relative not have a phone? Most of the major supermarket chains stock prepaid, pay-as-you-go simple mobile phones for as little as £10, making it the perfect option for your relative who’s only going to receive phone calls.


  1. Social media video calling


Is your elderly relative a little more tech savvy? Do they have a smartphone or a tablet? The likes of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram all have free video calling software built into them, so you can have a face-to-face call from the comfort of your own homes, completely risk-free!


  1. Send a letter


Before the internet, we sent one another letters (outrageous; we know). If your elderly relative dislikes mobile phones and other modern technology, why not send them a letter instead? We all like receiving post, and the gesture of writing out a letter and sending it is sure to make someone feel less lonely.


With the number of coronavirus cases predicted to grow, it’s likely to be a difficult and unusual year for the UK. It does make sense for us to limit social visits during a pandemic, but that doesn’t mean we should cut communication with our elderly relatives. For those without close family members who can stay in touch, the coronavirus is likely to further heighten the feelings of isolation.


Age UK has the perfect platform for contacting those who feel alone during the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s Call In Time services matches volunteers with elderly people who want to speak over the phone. Age UK will match people together with similar interests, so there’s always something to talk about. Click the link below to see how you can get involved.




Want to stay up-to-date with the coronavirus, without any media spin, please click the links below to view the NHS and GOV.UK websites.




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