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A closer look at how older adults have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic

Insights from a recent collection of research articles aim to influence future directions in research, policy and practice

The COVID-19 pandemic has had world-wide devastating impacts on older adults, their families, health care systems, and society as a whole. A team of experts from multiple institutions has been conducting research, education and practice at the intersection of aging and public health to better understand how older adults have dealt with the pandemic. Collectively, they have recently released an editorial chronicling the collection of articles on COVID-19, Aging, and Public Health published as a special research topic in both the journals of Frontiers in Public Health and Frontiers in Medicine.

The COVID-19, Aging, and Public Health research topic prompted submissions that seek more knowledge about how older adults perceived the risks of COVID-19 and followed recommended guidelines, in addition to how they interacted with friends and family and navigated their communities and homes. It also looked to understand more about how older adults dealt with health care and social services during the pandemic.

The team included Marcia G. Ory, PhD, MPH, Regents and Distinguished Professor with the Texas A&M School of Public Health and faculty affiliate of the Texas A&M Center for Population Health and Aging, and colleagues Emily Joy Nicklett, PhD, MSW from the University of Texas at San Antonio; doctoral candidate Kimson E. Johnson from The University of Michigan, MSW, PhD-C; and Tzvi Dwolatzky, MBBCh, from the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.

“This collection of 40 articles broadly examines the impacts of COVID-19 on older adult populations, as well as future directions in research, policy and practice,” Ory said. “As we are embarking on the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to understand the evolution of the disease, as well as changing public health responses. Our hope is that lessons learned in the first two years from various geographic regions and populations can help mitigate the worldwide effects on older adults, their families and communities.”

Drawing insights from the articles published under the research topic, the editorial outlines six themes about COVID-19, aging and public health issues. These themes included: public health and ageism; health care and social service responses; health equity and social determinants of health; social isolation and social support; risk perceptions and coping; and active aging and health-related behaviors during the pandemic. Ory, Nicklett and Dwolatzky also served as research topic guest editors with Johnson serving as research topic coordinator.

“We hope that the articles in this research topic will guide clinical and public health interventions, future research and policy strategies as the world continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Nicklett, collaborator and co-founder of the Aging and Public Health Task Force on COVID-19, American Public Health Association, which helped spur this research collection. “This evidence base is critical for informing next steps and future directions in these areas.”

The collection of articles was authored by 195 individuals, and the research topic has had more than 150,000 article views with more than 25,0000 article downloads since 2020. Additionally, the research topic will be reissued as an e-book that can be downloaded for free for widespread public use.

More information about the research topic and the published articles can be found on the Frontiers research topic page.

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