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Coronavirus Self-Quarantine Will Likely Exacerbate Elderly Isolation

An elderly woman holds hands with a younger person in this undated photo.

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Above: An elderly woman holds hands with a younger person in this undated photo.

Many seniors in California can go days, sometimes weeks without seeing or speaking to anyone.

California’s new directive for seniors to stay home to protect themselves from the coronavirus is likely to intensify their loneliness.

About 20 percent of seniors in the United States are socially isolated, according to the AARP. As their health deteriorates and friends and relatives die off, many become increasingly secluded.

UC San Diego geriatric neuropsychiatrist Dilip Jeste said while Gov. Gavin Newsom’s self-quarantine order is necessary to stem the pandemic, there are consequences.

"We must realize that they do have a major adverse impact on seniors’ well-being,” Jeste said.

He added that seniors who live alone will likely feel scared, helpless, sad, or even panicked. This means, he said, that now more than ever, family, friends and neighbors should be reaching out to seniors who are living alone.

“If possible using Facetime or something like that so they can see their loved ones on the screen and won’t feel isolated,” Jeste said.

He also urged seniors at home to maintain their exercise regimen even if they can’t travel to the gym or go for walks outside.

Listen to this story by Amita Sharma.


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Photo of Amita Sharma

Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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