Blog: How Older Adults Can Stay Safe and Connected This Holiday Season

Alliance for Aging Research Team December 16, 2020 Blog
Ramsey Alwin, President and CEO of the National Council on Aging.

On a recent episode of the Alliance for Aging Research’s podcast, This is Growing Old, National Council on Aging (NCOA) President and CEO Ramsey Alwin spoke about ways older adults can stay safe and connected this holiday season, and provided updates on NCOA initiatives. Here are some highlights from the episode: 

The holiday season looks different this year for everyone because of the pandemic, but especially for older adults. What is NCOA recommending to your audience for staying safe but also connected this holiday season?
We know the holidays are difficult this year for family and for older loved ones. It’s a favorite time of year for so many of us, and this year we’re all struggling with how different things will be. But with the COVID cases surging again across the country, it’s imperative to keep our older adults safe. The best way to prevent the spread is to follow the CDC guidelines for safe holiday activities. Celebrating with members of your household or virtually with members of your extended family pose the lowest risk for spread. And this is especially true for people age 65 and older with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes.

NCOA has some thoughts on lower risk activities, including having a small dinner with only people who live in your household, preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others, posting or participating in a virtual dinner and sharing favorite recipes with friends and family, and shopping online rather than in person for holiday food and gifts. And of course, watching sports, parades, and movies all can be done from home safely.

“We know the holidays are difficult this year for family and for older loved ones.”

As always, we must all adhere to the very important safety precautions during the holidays and beyond, as tough as it may be. Wear that face mask at all times in public and when around people not in your household. Keep six feet apart from people not in your household and wash hands frequently.

What have been some of NCOA’s priorities since the COVID-19 pandemic began?
COVID-19 has greatly impacted older adults and those who care for them in so many different ways, and NCOA’s priorities have included providing trusted information to older adults and their caregivers, listening to and supporting our local community-based partners who are serving older adults in community, and advocating at the federal policy level. Through our websites and web properties, we’ve provided a COVID Resource Center that features articles and videos on how to stay healthy, safe, and connected with loved ones.

Our benefitscheckup.org website connects people who are struggling financially, impacted by the economic implications of the pandemic, identifying programs that can help them pay for daily expenses.

“We’re advocating for older adults, especially older people of color whose lower income and vulnerability has made them highly susceptible to the pandemic.”

We’re also providing tips for local agencies and aging network professionals on who they can engage and how they can pivot in terms of providing online services and virtual programs to continue to serve older adults when we’re all trying to stick to the CDC guidelines and physically distance. On the national level, we’re advocating for older adults, especially older people of color whose lower income and vulnerability has made them highly susceptible to the pandemic. And finally, we’re advocating to prioritize equitable access to the COVID vaccine. Safe, culturally competent access and education is critical.

Listen to the full episode here: