The Arizona section of the American Association of Retired Persons, more commonly known as AARP, hosted a live coronavirus informational phone conference for over 10,000 Arizonans to inform seniors and older citizens of the dangers of COVID-19.

COVID-19 has sent all communities in the Valley into lockdown, only allowing citizens to leave their domicile if they are an essential worker or need food and other essential services. 

The main demographic that has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic is Arizonans 40 and above.  With Arizona having one of the highest populations of seniors nationally, it is extremely important for these individuals to take the stay-at home orders seriously and stay vigilant from other potential threats. 

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema was one of the main speakers during the AARP conference as she is one of the nation’s lawmakers who have been a driving force for senior advocacy during the pandemic.  Not only did she warn seniors of the health threat that the coronavirus has posed, but some of the other follow-up issues they need to be aware of. 

“There are criminal monsters out there who are seeking to take advantage of a public health emergency, “said Sen. Sinema.  “Offering to buy groceries for homebound seniors and stealing their money instead, and even administering fake tests to try and obtain their social security numbers.”

Currently, there is no available test that can be conducted at home, so seniors and other Arizona citizens are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider if they believe they may have the virus.  These scams are an unfortunate development as many of these criminals have begun using the coronavirus as a catalyst to expose Arizona seniors. 

In order to prevent scams, Sinema stated that it is important for seniors to stay informed during the coronavirus pandemic but stressed that there is a lot of misleading information being presented by media.

“It can be hard to tell what’s real and what’s not real,” Sinema said.  “Only accept information that is verified and accurate and that is how we stay safe, stay healthy, and how we can stay calm during this time.”

Misinformation has led to more commotion and panic. Also, without being able to leave their homes, Arizona seniors can no longer physically be with loved ones who normally provide them with honest information. However, Arizona seniors should be prepared to stay isolated from their loved ones for the time being.

Dr. Leonard Kirschner is a licensed M.D. and the past President of AARP Arizona, he stated during the teleconference that seniors should prepare to be social distancing for the long haul.

“This virus will be with us for a long time, this pandemic will run its course for at least 18 months,” said Dr. Kirschner. 

What this will cause is extended periods of time of social distancing throughout the next year and a half.  This is especially important for the more vulnerable Arizonans who are in the 40 and above age bracket. This lack of contact has caused many seniors to develop depression and other mental health issues, rather than physical sickness from the coronavirus.

“This disease is not only causing physical problems, but with isolation, it is causing significant emotional and behavioral health problems across this country”, Dr Kirschner said. “This is clearly now a big part of this particular outbreak.”

Many Arizona seniors are quite active.  Several are part of retirement communities with robust exercise programs and senior citizens also provide for a large portion of the golfing community.  With coronavirus halting these activities, it is leaving many older Arizonans questioning what they can do to improve their mental health. 

Some 40 and older Arizona residents are being proactive and trying to keep themselves busy to maintain their spirits.  Residents such as Jordan Plocher, who is attempting to make the adjustment to social distancing in the best fashion he can. 

“I take my dog for multiple walks a day to get outside and get some fresh air and exercise,” said Plocher.  “I have also been training on different aspects of my job to stay mentally fresh.”

Activities such as going outside for walks while maintaining social distancing and reaching out to loved ones via telephone or video calls were also recommended during the conference. 

Luckily for Arizona seniors, there is massive amounts of effort being put forward by state leaders to support them during the coronavirus pandemic.  Global efforts are being made to create a vaccine at a rapid rate, and Arizona lawmakers are creating legislation to financially assist the state’s elders.

For now, Arizona’s older citizens can stay safe by staying up to date with valid information like tuning in to the AARP teleconference and continuing to practice social distancing.