Maintaining Physical and Mental Well-Being of Older Adults and Their Caregivers During Public Health Emergencies

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a public health emergency (PHE) that disproportionately affects older adults and their unpaid caregivers. NORC at the University of Chicago, and its partners TMNCorp and Burness, completed a 2020 study on behalf of the National Foundation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Foundation) with technical assistance from CDC to identify the needs and concerns of community-dwelling older adults (ages 50+) and their unpaid caregivers in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a special focus on disproportionately affected subpopulations, including racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with disabilities, rural populations, tribal populations, populations with limited English proficiency, and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations. The findings are critical for understanding the resources and social supports they need for their health and well-being, and to help them better cope now, and during public health crises in the future.

NORC conducted two formative research activities: a needs assessment and an environmental scan. For the needs assessment, NORC conducted a nationally representative survey of older adults, focus groups of older adults and their caregivers, stakeholder interviews, a stakeholder survey, secondary data analysis of U.S. caregiver surveys, and social data listening, to understand the needs and concerns of older adults and unpaid caregivers during COVID-19. For the environmental scan, NORC identified over 300 public health strategies and interventions to support the physical and mental well-being of community-dwelling older adults and their unpaid caregivers during public health emergencies, covering the interrelated topics of: 1) deconditioning (the loss of muscle tone and endurance due to chronic disease, immobility, or loss of function); 2) deferral of medical care; 3) management of chronic conditions; 4) social isolation; 5) elder abuse and neglect; and 6) caregiving.

Findings from these research activities were synthesized into a final report; an executive summary; a caregiver infographic highlighting key findings; and a caregiver one-pager of resources, available in English and Spanish.

This report is part of a CDC Foundation project, utilizing donor funds from the flexible COVID-19 Response Fund.

NORC at the University of Chicago. Needs Assessment and Environmental Scan Report: Maintaining Physical and Mental Well-Being of Older Adults and Their Caregivers During Public Health Emergencies. Bethesda, MD: NORC at the University of Chicago; 2021.