The pandemic has taken its toll on all of us and we have had to sustain a high level of stress and isolation for much longer then anyone imagined. However, the toll on our older adults has been the greatest. Now is the time we need to reach out and check on our older neighbors and show them that the community is still here for them.
Older adults are most at risk of serious illness or death from the virus. In fact, older adults account for over 80 percent of all deaths from COVID-19. This statistic means many older adults are living with this fear and, therefore, restricting their social outings even more to stay safe. We see this more now as the numbers are rising during this current surge. Vaccines are so close in becoming available to them that many are sheltering tight to home while waiting for the vaccine to make it safer for them to go out.
For most of us, the use of technology has been a lifeline for staying connected and engaged during the pandemic. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Zoom and Facetime are just some of the ways people use the internet to stay engaged and involved. Younger generations are used to and savvy with these websites. Older adults that have access to the technology may use it to stay connected, but often the ease of use and comfort level with these sites is not the same as for people who grew up with it as part of their day to day interactions.
Studies show that one in four older adults report anxiety or depression during the pandemic. This is certainly understandable considering the fear of the disease, the change to daily routines, and the limits on social interactions. Those who are still working, even if working from home, have a work routine to manage and must remain engaged and productive in this way. Retired older adults do not have employment to keep them on a schedule and give them a purpose each day. Their previous activities and routines may have been canceled because of the pandemic.
Now is the time to check on your older neighbors, to show that as a community we are here for each other. If you have their phone number, call them to check in. If not, consider knocking on their door. Be sure to wear a mask and step back six feet when they answer to be respectful of their safety. Ask if you can help with errands or add to your online order for them. See how they are feeling and if they have a good support system.
Consider setting up a system for your street where older adults open their blinds in the morning to signal that they are okay. This is an opportunity to create a community so that no one feels alone.
If you find someone who needs more support then you can offer, refer them to the Area Agency on Aging. For Ventura County they can call 805- 477-7300 and if in the East County Senior Concerns can assist at 805-497-0189. In Los Angeles County call 800-510-2020. Both counties can also dial 211 for a full resource directory. Home delivered meals, friendly phone calls, volunteer shopping services, transportation services and more may be available to them.
Ten months of living through a pandemic is wearing on all of us. Look out for one another, and especially look in on our most vulnerable, and probably the most scared, community of older adults. Let’s hope when we look back on all of this, one thing we can remember is how we came together as a community to care for each other.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.