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Older Adults Are Still The Most At Risk

As the Office for Aging Director, I realize how difficult this pandemic has been on older adults more than any other segment of the population.

I wish I could tell you that the risk to your health and safety will be over on a particular date, but I can’t. Until there is a vaccine, older adults are still the most at risk population for dying if they catch COVID-19. In New York state, 85% of the 24,133 (or 20,547) deaths are people over the age of 60. Even though the county and the country are slowly opening businesses, it does not eliminate the risk for older adults catching COVID-19. Everyone, but especially older adults, need to be careful as they start to venture out to restaurants, businesses or when considering to gather with their friends. There are signs that many older adults in Chautauqua County are unaware that the recent loosening of state and county restrictions currently doesn’t apply to them. So, how do we balance limiting exposure to a potentially deadly virus, while also encouraging safe socialization?

If we offer no advice, we would be putting older adults more at risk as they try to figure out on their own how best to start interacting. New York state has still not offered specific guidance for older adult populations.

Chautauqua County feels that the best approach for older adults is to stay at home and limit their interaction with others as much as possible. This is the best advice we can give you to avoid catching COVID-19. However, we realize that keeping 33,500 people (26%) of our over 60 population on lockdown for months on end, without some type of phased approach to loosening restrictions, is not realistic or practical.

See RISK, Page A6

From Page A5

While there is a clear association between age and the efficiency of our immune systems, there is not sufficient data to make a judgement about risk from COVID-19 based on age alone. We do know that the effects of confinement on healthy older adults in terms of isolation, reduced mental well-being, and reduced physical activities can have long-term health consequences. Furthermore, the impact of confinement for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will have a negative effect on disease progression. Below I have adapted the Eagle County Colorado’s “Safer at Home” guidelines for older adults to consider should you choose to start venturing out.

“SAFE AT HOME” TO “SAFER AT HOME” GUIDELINES FOR OLDER ADULTS

It is likely that many older adults are going out, away from their homes, or to see their friends despite the state and local public health orders. Although there is agreement that the safest place is home, we want to ensure older adults have additional information and guidance to best protect their health and safety if they choose to venture out.

Initial Phase (Starting June 2020)

¯ Limit group size to 5-6 people. The more people in a gathering the greater the risk. Continue to limit the gathering size as much as possible.

¯ If anyone has any signs of illness they must remain at home.

¯ Keep 6-8 feet of distance between people – avoid close, face to face conversations.

¯ Wear face a mask that covers both nose and mouth when in groups or public settings.

¯ Wash or sanitize hands frequently and avoid touching your face.

¯ Keep gatherings to outside settings when possible.

¯ Keep interactions with larger numbers of the general public to a minimum by utilizing senior shopping hours at stores and keep indoor interactions with the public brief (under 10 minutes.)

¯ Avoid personal contact with others (hugs, hand shakes, etc.).

¯ Avoid sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses.

¯ Return back to work as comfortable, working with your employer if special accommodations need to be made.

¯ Contact your health care provider immediately at onset of symptoms for testing.

¯ Senior Congregate meals continue to be take out or home delivery.

¯ Transportation for older adults should limit the number of riders to 25% capacity.

¯ Organized group senior programs should remain suspended.

Secondary Phase (July)

¯ Limit group size to 10-12 people. The more people in a gathering the greater the risk. Continue to limit the gathering size as much as possible.

¯ If anyone has any signs of illness they must remain at home.

¯ Keep 6 feet of distance between people whenever possible.

¯ Wear face coverings while in public settings and wash/sanitize hands frequently.

¯ Keep gatherings to outside settings when possible.

¯ When gathering inside, ensure proper space between people and sanitize surfaces, door handles, bathrooms, etc. before & after use.

¯ Senior programs may start to organize small group activities (10 or less) for exercise, arts & crafts, book clubs, etc. adhering to social distancing and sanitizing protocols.

¯ Congregate senior meals will be provided via takeout or delivery.

¯ Transportation should limit riders to 50% of total capacity with social distancing.

¯ County organized large group senior gatherings remain suspended

Future Phases

(late summer/ early fall

and until a vaccine/proper treatment is available)

¯ Limit group size to 15-20 people. The more people in a gathering the greater the risk. Continue to limit the gathering size as much as possible.

¯ If anyone has any signs of illness they must remain at home.

¯ Keep 6 feet of distance between people whenever possible.

¯ Wear face coverings while in public settings and wash hands frequently.

¯ Keep gatherings to outside settings when possible.

¯ When gathering inside, ensure proper space between people and sanitize frequently.

¯ Senior programs may organize small group activities(15 or less) – exercise programs, health education, support groups, art classes, book clubs, etc. while adhering to social distancing.

¯ Organized high touch activities such as card games or puzzles should be suspended for the foreseeable future as multiple people touching the same items can spread virus.

¯ Senior nutrition programs may start to offer congregate meals limited to less than 15-20 participants at each seating. Meals will also continue to be provided via takeout or delivery.

¯ Transportation should limit riders to 50-60% of total bus capacity and encourage distancing.

¯ County organized large group senior gatherings will remain suspended.

Watch for updates as specific guidance becomes available from New York state and our county Health Department. The Office for Aging has received 15,000 masks to distribute to older adults who need them. We will be receiving a shipment of sanitizer soon and plan to have a drive by distribution of masks and sanitizer later this month for those who need them.

For more information about COVID-19 visit the Chautauqua County Department of Health Facebook page or state Health Department website. For information on senior services in Chautauqua County contact the NY Connects Helpline at 753-4582.

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