How the Pandemic Affected Older Adults: First Person with Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr of Columbia University - The New York Community Trust
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January 26, 2022   |   By The New York Community Trust
How the Pandemic Affected Older Adults: First Person with Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr of Columbia University
Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr

Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr is the founder and director of ICAP at Columbia University, a global health center which received Trust grants in 2020 and 2021 to study the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on older New Yorkers.

“During the first months of the pandemic, I continued to go to my office and there was no one on the streets. I wondered about the impact of the pandemic on older adults living at home in the neighborhood. I thought they might be fearful of mingling with family members, afraid to go to a health clinic, and unable to go to senior centers. While there was a lot of attention given to older adults in nursing homes, I thought it was important to determine how this other group was doing.

Funded in part by a grant from The New York Community Trust, my colleagues and I created a citywide randomized telephone survey to determine how New Yorkers over 70 years old were faring, and if there were gaps in their services.

Preliminary results were troubling. After interviewing more than 600 older New Yorkers, we found that many were in need of mental-health and other supports.

More than two-thirds of the survey participants reported interacting a lot less with people. Fifty-eight percent reported feeling isolated. Almost 70 percent said the pandemic had created financial having problems. Eighteen percent of the older adults were found to have symptoms of depression and a similar amount for anxiety.

While the pandemic saw an increased use of telehealth and virtual social activities, a significant portion—22 percent—of the older adults we surveyed did not have access to the internet.

While we shared our findings with the city’s Department for the Aging and other groups, we are continuing our investigations with the original respondents and a new cohort. With an additional grant from The Trust, we are launching a second survey to dig deeper into participants’ living situations and determine how those factors affected their mental health.

Our goal is to make sure that the critical needs of older New Yorkers are met, and that they are not forgotten as we continue to respond to the pandemic.”

Read about other Trust grants making life better for older adults.

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Media Contact Information

Need help or advice?

Marty Lipp
Communications Director
(212) 889-3963 
mbl@nyct-cfi.org

Amy Wolf
Director of Marketing
(646) 214-1004
aw@nyct-cfi.org

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