Isolation and loneliness among older adults was already cause for concern. Experts are even more concerned about adults facing isolation during the coronavirus. Experts say that the pandemic could make isolation-related ailments, including memory loss and cognitive problems, even worse.

According to experts, loneliness is a risk factor for dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, weakened immune systems, and other physical maladies. These factors on their own are a problem but in a pandemic, they are extra troubling. Adults experiencing these symptoms are at a risk for coronavirus and might have additional loneliness due to social distancing habits.

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According to behavioral neurologist Borna Bonakdarpour, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine physician, “We know people who are getting old, if they’re isolated or socially less stimulated, they tend to develop dementia earlier than others. So when social activities were stopped when we first started to shelter in place, I started getting phone calls from family members that [their loved ones] were declining,” Bonakdarpour told AARP.

If you are worried about someone in your life suffering from loneliness or isolation, experts recommend connecting regularly through FaceTime or Zoom and giving the person your full attention. Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy told AARP recently that giving others attention and our (virtual) presence can “make people feel seen; it can make people feel that they matter. We don’t need to be a nurse or a doctor to provide that kind of healing.” We each can play a role in showing up for those around us.

Read more about protecting yourself from coronavirus. Check the CDC website for more information on how to protect yourself and check our latest article to learn how COVID-19 differs from the flu.

Check out these helpful articles about how to keep your brain healthy and also boost your mental health:

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