Older adults’ weekly in-person contact fell substantially (61% to 39%) and more so in residential care (56% to 22%), where nearly four in ten transitioned to less-than-weekly in-person contact with a nonresident family members or friends (doubling to 8 out of 10), comparing before the pandemic started (prior to March 2020) with during the pandemic (through summer 2020).
So found Vicki A Freedman and Mengyao Hu of the Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging (MiCDA), and Judith D Kasper of the Hopkins’ Economics of Alzheimer’s Disease and Services (HEADS) Center.
Vicki A Freedman, Mengyao Hu, Judith D Kasper, Changes in older adults’ social contact during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 2021;, gbab166, https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbab166
To understand changes during the COVID-19 pandemic in weekly contact with non-resident family and friends for US adults ages 70 and older in residential care and community settings.
Participants in the National Health and Aging Trends Study COVID-19 mail supplement (N=3,098) reported frequency of phone, electronic, video, and in-person contact with non-resident family and friends in a typical week before and during the pandemic. We examined less-than-weekly contact by mode for those in residential care settings and community residents with and without limitations. We estimated multinomial logit models to examine predictors of change to less-than-weekly contact (vs. maintaining weekly-or-more contact) by mode, overall and stratified by setting.
Weekly in-person contact fell substantially (from 61% to 39%) and more so in residential care (56% to 22%), where nearly four in ten transitioned to less-than-weekly in-person contact (doubling to 8 out of 10). Weekly-or-more contact was largely stable for electronic and telephone modes across settings. Weekly-or-more video contact increased mainly for community residents without limitations. Compared to community residents without limitations, those in assisted living or nursing homes had more than five times the odds (AOR=5.3; p=.01) of changing to less-than-weekly in-person contact; those in independent living also had higher odds of changing to less-than-weekly in-person (AOR=2.6; p=.01) and video (AOR=3.4; p=.01) contact.
The pandemic revealed the importance of ensuring that communication technologies to maintain social ties are available to and usable by older adults, particularly for those living in residential care settings.