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Cooking, gardening, spirituality: Doctors list activities to save senior citizens from depression

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Srinagar:  Having lost his wife a year ago, and son working outside the valley, Abdul Majid (name-changed), 70, has been left all alone.

The loneliness of living under home quarantine further added to his woes. With no shoulder to lean on, he slipped into depression and sought treatment from Psychiatric Hospital, Rainawari. 


“When I spoke to him, I could hear the sadness and pain in his voice. He was forced to remain inside his home and forego his prayers in the mosque. His daily communications with the neighbors have stopped. Most importantly, the safety of his son gave him increased worry lines,” the doctor examining him said.

Similarly, 67-year-old Rashid Ahmad (name changed) was already on treatment for dementia. However, the lockdown has aggravated his illness.

“He had a habit of going on an evening walk. I or my sister usually accompanied him. Due to the pandemic, we don’t allow him to go out. As a result, he has grown irritable and screams at the smallest of things. He even refuses to have his meals,” his son said.

Senior citizens in the valley are facing worst of times in Covid-19 lockdown. Not only has lockdown made it difficult for them to manage their day-to-day needs, their age-related health conditions make them more vulnerable to contracting the virus.

Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Dr. Arshad Hussain said elderly people appear to be more vulnerable in the pandemic.

“With co-morbidities and compromised immune systems, the senior citizens find it harder to battle the disease,” he said.

Dr. Arshad noted that one important way to lower the risk of older family members is to limit personal visits.“But this may be tough for older adults who cherish the time they spent with relatives and family members. Also, with mosques closing their doors, people especially older ones may feel cut off,” he said.

Dr. Yasir H Rather, Associate Professor, Psychiatry department said people need to spend time with an elderly family member to make them feel at ease. “If the family is far away, try to connect with them through video or phone call,” he said.

Dr. Yasir pointed out that exercising regularly like simple walking in their own premises can also prove helpful. “Getting involved in cooking, cleaning, and gardening will help in overcoming boredom. Keeping them busy with religious and spiritual activities also help in coping with stress. Lastly, having proper sleep and a good nutritious diet is important,” he said.

 Dr. Junaid Nabi Bhat, Lecturer at Psychiatry department said the lockdown has further alienated the category of ‘senior citizens’.

 “We get a lot of elderly patients. They feel stuck at home, unable to carry out routine activities. The emotional support is most important at this hour,” he said.