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Survey: 1 in 6 Older Americans Delayed Or Canceled Medical Care In March

More than half of older Americans, many with chronic conditions, put off medical treatment during the first month of social distancing. That's according to a nationwide survey funded by the SCAN Foundation and the John A. Hartford Foundation, both of which focus on improving care for older adults.

Dr. Bruce Chernof, SCAN's President and CEO, said the survey shows that "the first month of social distancing certainly saved lives, and yet it also created a situation where many older adults are not getting the care they need to manage serious health conditions."

According to the survey, 1 in 6 older adults delayed or canceled essential medical treatment in March. Almost 40 percent put off non-essential treatment, while about a third went without preventative care.

The respondents were all age 70 or more. Only 1 in 5 said they'd had a medical appointment by phone or video chat. And their views on telehealth are divided. About half said it was much the same as a regular visit in the doctor's office, while about 40 percent said it was worse, or much worse. Ten percent liked it better.

An overwhelming 83 percent of older Americans said they're prepared to self-isolate for months, if necessary, to protect their own health and that of others. Yet, after just one month of self-isolation, a third of them said they felt lonelier than before.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ina Jaffe is a veteran NPR correspondent covering the aging of America. Her stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered have focused on older adults' involvement in politics and elections, dating and divorce, work and retirement, fashion and sports, as well as issues affecting long term care and end of life choices. In 2015, she was named one of the nation's top "Influencers in Aging" by PBS publication Next Avenue, which wrote "Jaffe has reinvented reporting on aging."