2020 COVID-19 Urban Research to Action Award: The “Aging Disaster” of COVID19: The Association of Social Isolation and Loneliness to Perceived Health, Psychological Wellbeing, and Material Hardship Among Boston Residents Age 60 and Older

PI: Judith G. Gonyea, PhD, MPH, Professor, BU School of Social Work (BUSSW)
Co-PI: Arden O’ Donnell, PhD Student, BUSSW

This project, in collaboration with the City of Boston’s Age Strong Commission, explores the experiences of Boston residents age 60 and older during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given their risk of severe complications from COVID-19, adults age 60 and older have been told to stay at home and self-isolate. However, recent research suggests that social isolation and loneliness pose significant health risks, including heart disease, diabetes, immune suppression, anxiety, and depression.

Gonyea and O’Donnell, with the support of the Commission, will survey a racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse sample of 120 Bostonians age 60 or older in English, Spanish, or Cantonese. They seek to gain insight into the strategies that older adults have adopted in response to stay-at-home directives and study whether and how older adults have been able to maintain social connections. They will also examine how stay at home directives have impacted elderly residents’ sense of isolation, loneliness, perceived health, psychological wellbeing, and material hardship such as food insecurity and cutting back on medications.

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