COVID-19 and the Elderly: The Impact of the Pandemic on the 65+ Age Group in Israel

That the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the pandemic is clearly indicated by the mortality figures for COVID-19. According to UN data, the mortality rate among the 80+ population is five times that of the worldwide average, as of April 26, 2020 (United Nations, May 2020). Israel’s 65+ population at the end of 2018 totaled about a million (Shnoor & Cohen, 2020) and is estimated to reach 1.1 million by the end of 2020.[1]

Apart from the high mortality rate, the changing realities wrought by the pandemic have been detrimental to the elderly population in additional ways and, possibly, seriously so. The pandemic period engendered avoidance of receipt of medical services whether by choice or necessity, as well as delays in the provision of regular health services; and given that the 65+ population is the largest consumer of health services (OECD, 2016), the harm caused them as a result of this situation could be grave. Other social phenomena related to the pandemic, such as social distancing, isolation,[2] and loss of income[3] are also potentially harmful to the 65+ age group who, to begin with, are susceptible in these areas.

Elders with functional disabilities receive assistance from the formal service system (primarily, the services provided under the Long-Term Care Law: homecare help or daycare attendance) as well as the informal service system – family caregivers. During the pandemic, the guidelines on social isolation created difficulties in the supply of basic services to the home, such as food and prepared meals; in the provision of nursing homecare (due to the difficulty of reaching an elder’s home and the mutual apprehension of elders and caregivers about their entering the home, dilemmas related to the employment of caregivers, and changes in the basket of services); in the receipt of medical care at home, the provision of medication, the treatment and balancing of chronic illnesses, the treatment of medical problems that crop up, and the receipt of alternative responses to clinic visits (online or telephone consultations). Furthermore, the forced isolation imposed by the pandemic also caused independently functioning elders to require help, e.g., for the purchase of food and medication.

Nevertheless, according to the Bazak Social Resilience Survey, conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS, 2020c)[4] at the end of April 2020 among the 21+ age group, in certain areas, the 65+ age group display greater resilience than the total population.

The Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute initiated a survey to examine social resilience among the 65+ age group and the impact on them of COVID-19 during the pandemic and at the height of the consequent social restrictions. The results of the survey appear in the full report in Hebrew.

[1] Estimate based on average annual increase of the 65+ age group in the past five years.

[2] According to the data of the Social Survey of the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) for 2018, 29% of the 65+ age group and 19% of the 20+ age group reported an occasional or frequents sense of loneliness (CBS, 2019).

[3] According to a report on the employment of the 45-74 age group, the percentage of employed by age group peaks in the 35-44 age group and decreases with age. The chances of finding work is in inverse proportion to the increase in age (Shnoor, Abrhm Wolde-Tsadick & Brodsky, 2015).

[4] I would like to thank Ms. Nurit Dobrin, the survey coordinator at the CBS, for her important feedback and comments on this review.

For MJB’s publications on the COVID-19 pandemic in English, press here.

For MJB’s publications on the COVID-19 pandemic in Hebrew, press here.