Isolation can kill people, especially seniors

Throughout the pandemic, I’ve had serendipitous interactions in public with folks I’d never meet in my work and online spaces. Many are older adults I encounter on public transportation, at parks, outdoor cafes, and doctor’s waiting rooms. When the sky turned tangerine from wildfire smoke, I commiserated with a lifelong San Francisco resident in his 70s as we waited for an ophthalmology appointment. He shook his head and said he’d never seen anything like the eerie golden fog over Golden Gate Park.

Recent analysis of federal data suggests that isolation has contributed to 13,200 excess dementia deaths since the pandemic’s start. To prevent COVID outbreaks, nursing homes have curtailed family visits and social activities, such as group classes and shared meals, that help stimulate the mind and blunt dementia’s ravages.

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