Stay-at-home measures impacting seniors' activity

The impact of stay-at-home measures against the coronavirus has been detrimental to the health of senior citizens, according to a Japanese survey.

The University of Tsukuba and six municipalities surveyed about 8,000 people. About one in five septuagenarians said they leave the house either once a week or not at all. That figure doubled for people in their 90s, with nearly 50 percent saying they don't go out at all, or only once a week.

Ninety-five-year-old Ohara Yoshihiro is one of those affected seniors, whose weekly exercise class was temporarily canceled due to the pandemic. He gradually had difficulty moving his legs, and now he cannot walk without a cane.

"You don't even notice how it gets harder and harder to move," he said. "Then you're in the situation where you don't move because it gets worse, and it gets worse because you don't move."

Eighty-seven-year-old Saito Kazuko said she's been staying home most of the time without talking to anyone since her choir group stopped last March. She said she's been struggling with forgetfulness.

"I'll write my shopping list and have my wallet beside me," she said. "And on the way to the store, I suddenly realize I didn't bring my wallet. I left it at home."

In the survey, about 30 percent of people over 60 said they are more concerned now with their memory.

Kuno Shinya, a professor at the University of Tsukuba who conducted the survey, says a lack of exercise and limited interaction can cause a decline in cognitive function. He adds it's important to have a safe place for people to meet and talk in local communities.