Keep older New Yorkers in mind during COVID-19 crisis


On behalf of the Association on Aging New York, we would like to strongly encourage the public to consider the breadth of impact that COVID-19 will have on the aging population and their caregivers. The aging network in New York state provides services and support for older individuals, their families and caregivers.

The virus is especially deadly in the older population, and those with compromised immune systems and underlying chronic conditions. The average client services via the aging network is 83, who lives alone, with four or more chronic conditions, placing them at risk of serious health consequences if they contract the virus.

The events of recent weeks have demonstrated that too many people of all ages are not taking adequate precautions to the seriousness of this pandemic. The 59 area agencies on Aging in New York, in partnership with their 1,200 subcontractors, serve the most vulnerable population that is at risk of serious health implications — including death — if exposed to the virus.

Those most at risk are individuals 80 and older with underlying medical issues and chronic conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated recently that 22 percent of individuals older than 80 in China died from COVID-19.

Unfortunately, where people get their news often determines how they behave, and there is significant misinformation being presented on various news outlets, and some older individuals and their families are not taking this outbreak as seriously as they should.

Many counties have taken a very proactive approach, and are working diligently to mitigate risk, in conjunction with their local elected officials and county executives.

The Association on Aging implores the community to follow CDC recommendations, including:

• Washing hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

• Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve, or cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw in the trash and wash your hands.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Avoid contact with people who are sick.

The symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, fever, trouble breathing, and pneumonia. The CDC believes at this time that symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days after exposure to the virus.

Individuals who are experiencing symptoms and may have traveled to areas of concern, or have been in contact with somebody who has traveled to these areas, should call ahead to their health care provider before seeking treatment in person.

Most cases are now likely to be spread from person to person by droplets when coughing.

The status for required mandatory quarantine is a person that has been in close contact (six feet) with someone who is positive, but is not displaying symptoms for COVID-19, or a person who has traveled to China, Iran, Japan, South Korea or Italy, and is displaying symptoms of COVID-19.

The status for required mandatory isolation is a person that has tested positive for COVID-19, whether or not displaying symptoms for COVID-19.

We additionally ask that social distancing is implemented immediately to mitigate risk to the vulnerable population. Local area agencies on aging can assist with meal delivery, and coordination of services to those with limited access to natural supports, and are dedicated to the health and well being of older New Yorkers.

It is extremely important to those at risk to stay home, practice good hygiene, and contact their health care provider if they are having any symptoms associated with COVID-19. We must all work together, with diligence, to ensure that we protect as many individuals as possible.

Although social distancing is difficult, and families and friends have a desire to spend time with older relatives, decisions to do so could be the reason someone has a tragic health outcome.

The author is executive director for the Association on Aging New York.

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Becky Preve,