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Saskatchewan’s senior citizens have had to deal with a range of emotional and social challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Saskatchewan Polytechnic research project.

“Early results from the research indicated that seniors experienced challenges with emotions including loneliness, anxiety, and low mood due to disruptions in their routine, the inability to visit with friends and family, and lack of regular exercise,” Heather Nelson, Sask Polytech research chair, Vulnerable Populations, said in a news release.

In the spring of 2020, Sask. Polytechnic researchers and nursing student research assistants studied the experiences of 40 Saskatchewan seniors who have experienced challenges with physical distancing and social isolation during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers interviewed participants three times each throughout the spring.

The study found that seniors used various coping methods to stay connected with friends and family, including technology. Seniors also stayed physically active by walking outdoors and gardening.

“We hope that the information learned in this study, along with the videos created, can be used to educate seniors and their families on the challenges of social isolation and tips on how to thrive during the pandemic,” Nelson said.

COVID-19 challenges will be magnified during the winter and coping measures will become even more important, the release said.

Tips for seniors to help care for their physical and mental health during the pandemic include: exercise, engage in hobbies, communicate with friends, use family as support, stay engaged with church and community groups, volunteer, keep a regular routine, and reach out if you need help.