Assessing and Supporting the Mental Wellbeing of Self-isolating Vulnerable Older Adults: A Covid-19 Case Study

Project Details


Social isolation and loneliness (SI&L) are significant issues within the UK; experienced by four million older adults (Campaign to End Loneliness, 2018). Reviews have identified a host of negative mental and physical health outcomes associated with SEI&L including depression, cognitive decline, and cardiovascular disease (Hawton etal., 2011).

Despite a 2018 announcement to provide £20 million of funding to support voluntary, community and charitable organisations to tackle loneliness, the vast majority of UK citizens are now isolated at home due to pandemic restrictions. Such restrictions have a strong rationale from a public health/infectious disease perspective, but the consequences for individuals from a psychological and mental health point of view are concerning. For example, a recent review highlighted the negative psychological effects and stressors associated with quarantine (Brooks et al., 2020).  

Before the COVID-19social lockdown, the I Can Therapy Centre in Andover served several hundred vulnerable older adults who regularly attended group power-assisted (PA)exercise classes. PA machines automatically move selected levers and handles at pre-determined speeds and range of motion– providing a safe alternative for individuals with poor exercise capacity, and movement impairment (Rimmer et al., 2014).

Through personal communications with staff last year, and through Ms. Rankin’s recent data, it is clear many members considered their involvement with the Therapy Centre to play an important role in maintaining their social and mental health. We are very concerned current measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus may greatly increase Therapy Centre members’ susceptibility to mental ill health, compromise any physical health gains achieved at the Centre, and deter many from resuming their involvement once national lockdown measures are lifted. Therefore, our project’s purpose is to:(1). Assess the behavioural and psychological impacts of social isolation among I Can Therapy Centre members; (2). Explore the use of technology to facilitate social connections and encourage interaction among members during the lockdown period; (3). Develop a ‘grounded’ resource, based on the data obtained, to support members at home; (4). Presumably, assist with the upcoming transition from home isolation back to group exercise at the I Can Therapy Centre.  

Effective start/end date10/04/2016/04/20


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