Always warned about being one of the most vulnerable groups susceptible to infection, senior citizens have been the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proof is in the numbers: of the 15,815 COVID-19 deaths in Bengaluru as on July 21, more than 10,000 were men. Of these, 3,425 were above the age of 70, while 2,458 were in the 60-69 category. As many as 1,983 were aged between 50 and 59, while 1,318 were men between the age of 40 and 49, and 639 were in the 30-39 bracket. Even among the younger age groups, more men lost their lives. Most female fatalities too were in the over 70 age group (1,811), followed by those in the 60-69 and 50-59 brackets.
Dominic Benjamin, head of the Department of Medicine, Bangalore Baptist Hospital, said the fatalities were the result of a lower immune system. “People in this part of the world are frail. Chronic diseases are not taken care of. A lot of factors have contributed, including not being aware and not getting vaccinated against other viruses. Most of those who died were obese or their BP was not under control. In India, the biological age is more than the chronological age. So someone who is 60 may be going on 70, and not resilient enough to bounce back,” he said.
He highlighted another important aspect: mental health. “People are already down because of fear and loneliness. They see the news and think corona means death. So there is fear even before infection,” he said.
Dr. Benjamin recommended that senior citizens try to get chronic diseases under control, especially as a lot of people are eating more because of stress. “There are simple things to do: not be fearful, get in touch with a doctor, get organised for the storm if it comes, stay connected with people willing to help. The human body is so strong, it can fight a lot of viruses. But people are sceptical about vaccination. Encourage them to nourish themselves and keep their mind positive,” he added, apart from prescribing the very basics such as wearing mask and maintaining social distancing.
S. Premkumar Raja, co-founder, Nightingales Medical Trust (NMT), said the pandemic affected more senior citizens during the first wave, as by the second many had received vaccination.
Radha S. Murthy, managing trustee, NMT, attributed the higher fatalities in the age group to the elderly having comorbidities, lower resistance, and a weaker immune system. “Diabetes, hypertension, COPD are among the many reasons. Vaccination is key. Keep sugar and BP under control, and get regular check-up,” she said, also advocating preventive care.