Safer at Home… In the time of COVID-19: A senior’s perspective

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So far, I’ve survived COVID-19, but this public health crisis seems different. It’s a war of sorts, but this enemy is invisible, and so much remains unknown about it.

By Suzi Fogarty, Resident Writer, The Lowry Aviator & Bonnie Brae Living Magazines | June 3, 2020

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Illustration of older adult female with mask walking medium size brown dog

 

In my 71 years, I have survived some ugly times in America:

  • Cuban missile crisis.
  • Assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy.
  • Vietnam.
  • The Gulf War.
  • 9/11.

So far, I’ve survived COVID-19, but this public health crisis seems different. It’s a war of sorts, but this enemy is invisible, and so much remains unknown about it. We do know older persons are at the greatest risk, particularly those with underlying health issues.

How many of you have family members or friends 65 years or older in Colorado? I’ve been a shut-in since March 19th. I chose to stay at home several days before Gov. Polis’ official order because I’m high risk. And, what has been my experience? I consider myself to be one of the fortunate ones. Pre-lockdown, I worked out at the gym 4 days a week, had a busy social life, have 3 children, 8 grandchildren and loads of friends and neighbors.

No complaints, even during this pandemic. I have not wanted for anything, even toilet paper! All I needed to do was ask and someone kindly brought whatever I needed. I have also stayed incredibly busy writing for a couple of local magazines and as a volunteer at Senior Planet. 

Senior Planet is an organization for seniors 60 years or older providing free membership and technology classes. Mostly, Senior Planet provides socialization in the form of events, lectures and panel discussions on all topics senior related. Since the pandemic temporarily closed Senior Planet Center, they quickly shifted gears providing numerous programs and activities on-line via Zoom designed to keep their members connected, informed and has become a lifesaver for many. 

Through my volunteer work, I have met and kept up with several members during the past 3 months. Sadly, many have not shared my more positive experiences. They are struggling.  

  • One gentleman, fully retired, has no family and lives in a northern suburb, not even in walking distance of a grocery store.  He advises he misses his work and former colleagues. He feels useless…without purpose. Since the Senior Planet Center closed March 13th, he cannot even take his computer class and has trouble concentrating. I try to give him ideas to help pass the time, like taking a walk, riding his bicycle, or, watching a few movies on TV.
     
  • Another friend, divorced and a lung cancer survivor, is deathly afraid of catching the virus to the point where she’s become reclusive and not staying in touch with friends. Rarely do my calls or texts get returned. When I do hear from her, she sounds sad, despondent and negative.
     
  • Another man, an immigrant who lost his wife many years ago, is wheelchair-bound and relies on HopSkipDrive, a discounted transportation service providing rides for seniors and children.  Ordinarily, he’s very involved in his church and does repair work for friends and neighbors. His church is closed, and, the work has dried up. He obsesses about whether to pay rent, buy food or pay for prescriptions because there isn’t money for all three. He suffers extreme anxiety, loneliness, depression and isolation.  
     
  • A newer Senior Planet member only relocated to Denver in December. She barely got unpacked and certainly hadn’t made any friends before COVID came to town. She’s struggling with unfamiliarity with the area, being stir crazy, not knowing where to shop or the ability to vent to someone on the phone. She was open to just driving around to learn the layout of Denver.

All I need do is look around to observe the issues with which seniors are grappling. It breaks my heart to hear their stories. All I can do is listen. Dropping off cookies or a meal seems not enough. 

The worst part of this pandemic is becoming acutely aware of how life can be so unfair to our aging population… something I was oblivious to when I was young. However, I will continue to do what I can to make a few lives a little better because that is the least and the best I can do. 

I try to envision what our new normal will be whenever there is effective treatment or a vaccine. Some of my senior friends try to stay positive about the future and some avoid thinking about it at all. I am hanging on to believing, though some things might never return to pre-pandemic, we will adapt and adjust to whatever life changes are required. I just keep saying to myself…I am not alone and able to help others not feel alone.  We are all in this together.

For now, and to all, stay safe and well.