Lived experiences of older adults living in Ticino during the Covid-19 lockdown

Fadda, Marta and Falvo, Ilaria and Albanese, Emiliano and Caiata Zufferey, Maria (2021) Lived experiences of older adults living in Ticino during the Covid-19 lockdown. In: Journée d’étude IDESO: Les personnes âgées et la pandémie de COVID-19. Quels enjeux, 23.4.2021, Genève, Switzerland.

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Background and aim: Public health measures used to mitigate the COVID-19 epidemic may have unintended, detrimental consequences particularly on older adults, whose voices and perspectives are often silent or silenced. The aim of this study was to explore the lived experiences of individuals aged 64 or older during the first COVID-19 lockdown. Methods: We conducted a qualitative study in a convenience sample of 19 older adults (aged 64+) living at home in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland during the first COVID-19 lockdown, between April and May 2020. Participants varied in terms of gender, education, age, nationality, and socio-economic status. We conducted semi-structured phone interviews to elicit emotions, expectations and hopes in relation to the present situation, and the post-pandemic world. We inquired about opinions on the enforced public health measures, including those specifically targeting older adults, and on the societal portrayal of older adults. Findings: We found that the epidemic and the public health response to it had both generated a variety of resentments and a high degree of ambivalence at the individual, micro-, meso- and macro-social levels. We also found that labelling older adults as an at-risk sub-population inevitably contributed to public and self-stigmatization. Discussion: We conducted an in-depth qualitative investigation of lived experiences of older adults during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in one of the most gravely hit region in Europe. Our findings on the complexity of unintended, detrimental consequences of outbreak responses on older adults have relevant implications for local adaptions of public health measures, and suggest that public health authorities should engage vulnerable sub-populations and promote bi-directional communication to inform and support communities.

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