Black women knitting outdoors

The shuttering of adult day service centers during the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated isolation for older adults and may have accelerated the cognitive and functional decline of those who routinely attend the centers, according to a new study.

In an article published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers said pandemic-related closures of adult day service centers left older adults and their caregivers without essential support and services, including health monitoring and socialization.

While child care facilities were deemed essential during the pandemic, ADSC weren’t treated the same way. The facilities serve an estimated 286,000 seniors daily in the U.S. However, nearly three-quarters reported closing or limiting hours between January 2020 and March 2021, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Nearly one-third of the centers reported shortages of personal protective equipment which limited their ability to safely provide in-person services. 

There are approximately 4,200 adult day service centers in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 60% of those who attend the centers are racial or ethnic minorities and live below the poverty line. Among the most popular programs that provide adult day services are Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which provide in-home and center-based services for seniors eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. A report by the National PACE Association during the pandemic found PACE programs adopted a number of strategies during the pandemic, including the use of virtual services, to keep seniors engaged while the facilities limited access or closed.

The study called for more research into the impact of adult day service center closures on seniors who use them and more data on the social determinants of health and health outcomes among ADSC users.