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    A year of pandemic takes its toll on the health of the over 65s: more chronic illness, aggravated dementia and depression

    It is the generation that has suffered most from the scourge of covid-19 and the one that has spent a whole year locked away, without kisses or hugs, to avoid catching the virus. However, isolation has had serious consequences for their health. Specialists in the treatment and prevention of diseases of the elderly call it the “B-side” of the pandemic and are now overwhelmed.

    While many over-65s are still unvaccinated, the medical community is already seeing the direct impact of the pandemic with “decompensated dementia”, “more vulnerability” and higher levels of “dependency”.

    But the most serious effect, say the geriatrics and gerontology societies, is the worsening of chronic diseases resulting from the lack of medical control for a year.

    “We see it in all consultations, uncontrolled pathologies, from diabetes to COPD, insufficiency or arrhythmias, and a greater deterioration in dementia,” says José Augusto García Navarro, president of the Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology.

    Cristina Alonso, president of the Spanish Society of Geriatric Medicine, for her part, has already read scientific studies that corroborate the serious repercussions on physical health, in terms of functional and mental deterioration in the elderly. As well as a higher mortality rate due to the social isolation that they have been recommended to do in order not to become infected by the coronavirus.

    The fear of going to hospital and the saturation of primary care centres, overwhelmed by the management of the pandemic, has led to delays in diagnosis and the clinical pictures are more aggravated, explain their doctors. “Before, they used to go at the first sign of symptoms, but they haven’t been there for a year.

    Now the problem they face is enormous waiting lists. Cristina Alonso describes them as “bestial” in pathologies as simple or mastered as cataracts or knee and hip prostheses. As well as in post-surgical rehabilitation, which implies a serious reduction in quality of life and shortens survival time, according to the doctor.

    Active ageing depends on three pillars: an adequate (Mediterranean) diet, physical activity and mental/relational activity. It is essential to see family, friends, be physically active, not to have unwanted loneliness or poverty”, needs that are resented in times of pandemic.

    “The isolation of the coronavirus pandemic has struck directly at the heart of healthy ageing,” doctors lament. So much so that life expectancy in Spain has been shortened by one year (slightly more in the case of women). “What we have increased in life expectancy in 10 years has fallen in just one year. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the pandemic had an even greater impact,” says García Alonso, the president of the Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology.

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