There are already bits and pieces of research happening in different parts of the world into the effects of the current virus on the lives of older people, but to really benefit it needs to be recorded and put together to provide a worldwide picture. This would give us a platform on which to base future policies. This applies particularly to aged care.

The field is huge, dealing with the legality of locking people up in aged care, and the variety of strategies to deal with them in that situation. Contact with loved ones and the type of  that contact currently varies enormously. Some residences banned visitors completely, while others took up the idea of one man in England who attached a piece of plastic to his Hills Hoist clothesline, with holes for two pairs of plastic arm covers at different heights for him to hug his mum! This idea was taken up by at least one aged care facility which adapted both a glass door and a window to achieve the same outcome. These were providers who recognised the value of hugs to humans, particularly older ones. Other residences allowed relatives to wave to their loved ones through windows. The different outcomes in terms of residents’ health deterioration should provide instructive comparison.

Research from Israel which measured mental health in terms of depression (found to have risen during lock-down), and emotional health (lower afterwards), showing significant mental health problems, needing recognition when life for older people in care returns to normal.

Some facilities are already planning strategies for meeting these problems if a similar situation arises. If this is widespread then we should see improvements in aged care in future. It requires all these bits of research to be collected together to produce more enlightened aged care, once we are able to return to normality.

As life expectancy continues to rise the poor quality of care currently accepted in some places cannot continue. We need higher provision of care through senior staff, such as boards, with members who are qualified in aged care as well as nursing and mental wellness. Currently the qualification requirement for managers seems to be restricted to financial knowledge which is why aged care is regarded as a good investment area, and is the sole motivation for some. This seems to be the main source of inadequate care.

Meanwhile I hope that the research associated with the current knowledge expansion is centrally coordinated so that we don’t start the next pandemic with a blank knowledge slate. Older people in the 21st century have so much to offer and deserve so much better. We need to be tapping currently underutilised resources among residents, as well as insisting on fully qualified boards.