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Providing seniors a path forward

May 20, 2021 | Long Term Care

An elderly woman chats with a young woman folding towels.

Even before pandemic shutdowns began, 69-year-old Deborah Allen of Waterford, Michigan felt isolated.

Deborah has limited financial resources and she lost her ability to drive due to a medical condition. Her husband and son passed away and her daughter doesn’t have a car. Her mobility has been impacted — but not her spirit. “Life keeps going on and you can't quit,” she says. “I’ve been through a lot, but the Lord is with me.”

The pandemic has only elevated the social isolation crisis. According to a 2020 survey, 56% of older adults report feeling isolated — up more than double from 27% in 2018.

Now, as over 72% of adults ages 65 and older are vaccinated, seniors are seeking age-friendly experiences that support their health and well-being. For Deborah, that meant signing up with “Papa Pals,” a program providing seniors with younger companions to assist with basic daily activities.

Papa Pal Denise Martincic visits Deborah weekly to help with household cleaning, take her grocery shopping and to doctor’s visits. “She’s like a second daughter to me,” says Deborah.
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Deborah receives the Papa Pal program as a benefit from Aetna, says Christopher Ciano, President of Aetna Medicare. After using the program, 86% of Aetna’s surveyed members in Florida reported feeling less lonely, prompting the company to expand to an additional five states (California, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania) in 2021.

For Christopher, senior wellness is deeply personal. After caring for his 93-year-old parents, and losing his father in January, he understands the challenges seniors face in their daily living.

“It's given me a lot of passion to want to improve and simplify the way health care is delivered across this country for seniors,” he says. And, because they want more convenient care, Aetna is expanding telehealth services in all benefit plans for seniors.

An elderly woman sits with her black dog on her lap while a caretaker smiles.
Christopher Ciano, President of Aetna Medicare, and his mother Barbara

All 1,100 CVS Health MinuteClinic locations have also adopted the Age-Friendly Health Systems approach, says Angela Patterson, Chief Nurse Practitioner Officer at MinuteClinic. The approach focuses on patients’ Medications, Mobility, Mentation (mental activity) and what health goals Matter most.

“Observing and evaluating all patients 65 and older for the 4Ms while they are already in our clinic for an unrelated visit helps us watch for early signs of trouble,” Angela says.

Although pandemic restrictions are easing, Christopher says it’s important for families to stay engaged with seniors. “Never underestimate the power of a simple human connection,” he says. “It can make all the difference in these unprecedented times.”