With the coronavirus disease making its way throughout Australia, infecting more and more people and putting the lives of entire cities at risk, Federal and State Governments have been forced to take drastic measures in order to ensure the safety of people.

The elderly, particularly susceptible to the disease, have seen their socialisation options reduced dramatically with stay-at-home advice for those aged over 70, over 65 for those with pre-existing conditions and over 50 for Indigenous people.

According to neuropsychologist Matthew Staios, this situation could have an adverse effect on the mental health of those people and more specifically those who live on their own and don’t have the support of their children or other loved ones.

“Social isolation is going to become a big issue so this is a time for us to be extremely vigilant and protect our elderly, our grandparents, our parents,” Mr Staios told Neos Kosmos.

“Things are going to get worse within the next few weeks or months or potentially even years and given the fact that a lot of elderly Greeks attend social clubs throughout the week, they might not be able to do that anymore. Having worked quite closely with the Greek community while conducting my Alzheimer’s research for the past five years, I’ve come to realise the important role that their social lives play. So having that taken away from them, having to grapple with being indoors for quite an extended period of time – it’s even having an impact on younger people – so we can only imagine what it would be like for the elderly.”

Mr Staios said there are many ways in which an elderly person’s psychology could change throughout this crisis:

“The uncertainty of what lies ahead seems to have left everybody on alert because they’re not sure what is going to happen. Which is concerning on so many levels, but I think in particular for the elderly, who need to rely on social interaction on a daily basis, whether it’s going to a friend’s house for a coffee just to break up the day or attend a Greek social club to touch base with some friends in order to maintain a sense of stability in their lives. When that’s taken away, you can only imagine what that would feel like. It could lead to increased stress levels and play a detrimental role in an elderly person’s psychological condition. And these are some of the major concerns that I hope to assist with in the year to come,” he said.

Mr Staios plans on providing his services towards the elderly members of the Greek community for free over the next year.

“Telephone counselling to assist with getting them through a tough period, whether it’s dealing with feelings of anxiety or depression”, he explains. “Also, if they possess any technological means, such as iPhones or iPads, we can organise them as a platform if they have access to the internet. And if they feel that they may need some sort of medication to assist them through these difficult times, if their symptoms start to increase then I can refer them to some Greek psychiatrists or GPs that can help with that, so generally I hope to provide a holistic mental health service.”

*Dr Matthew Staios is a clinical neuropsychologist, PhD candidate and teaching associate attached to Monash Universities Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health in the School of Psychological Sciences. If you would like to would like to reach out to him, feel free to call 04 75 043 067 or alternatively you can send an e-mail to mathew.staios@monash.edu