By: EMMA CHASTAIN
As of February 9th in California, the Los Angeles Times tracked that 4,914,630 vaccines have been administered. These recipients include health care workers, but also those living in long-term care facilities, many of whom are senior citizens. Although vaccine phases differ state by state, the first priority receivers are similarly health care workers, the high-risk, and senior citizens.
As teenagers with endless possibilities directly ahead of us, we tend to have a limited field of sympathy. Being in a generation experiencing unexpected roadblocks to their anticipated coming-of-age film high school experience, too, has furthered our (completely valid) generational self-pity spiral. However warranted these feelings may be, they have led us down a path of perpetual ennui and, if we do not distract ourselves, will do lasting harm. How much has anyone of a younger generation focused on the upheaval of the 55+ community? The older generations’ experiences are so different from the younger generation’s— opposite sides of the same spectrum and all that— yet, just as impactful on their end.
“We like to do things too once and a while. It’s hard on us too,” says Margie gore, an 89-year-old Missouri resident in a recent interview with The Paw. Gore lives in a 55 and up community apartment complex with her husband and has been surprised by the pandemic’s long-windedness. “I didn’t think it would last very long, I would say about six months maybe.” This was a similar premonition among all generations, especially after the first couple of Stay at Home order extensions.
What many younger people may not fully grasp, is the different levels of fear within different age groups. COVID-19 wields the potential to result in life-threatening symptoms in those 85 and older, and the Mayo Clinic informed its readers that 80% of COVID deaths have been people 65 and older. These numbers, along with kidney problems that have Gore required to go to dialysis three times a week, making her more scared than many. When asked if there was anything positive that she has experienced since the threat of Coronavirus reached an everyday level of tangibility, she wryly joked, “I don’t know really, other than that, I’m positive that I’m scared I’m gonna get it.” However, she followed with, “I’ve taken my shot now so,” … “I feel halfway safe now.” She gets her second round of the vaccine soon.
Similar to our at-home school year, people who live in either assisted care facilities, or senior citizen communities have been taken away from most daily social interactions. Not to say that people outside of these two distinctions have not been socially limited, but many students don’t have jobs and almost all that live in the latter situation are retired.
For many seniors living in assisted living facilities, visitors are a thing of the past, and while some are making up for it, such as Brookdale Arlington Senior Living in Arlington, Virginia who was doing through-the-door visits as of last May. The Gores live in a senior community building rather than one of assisted living, but with many of the residents being at risk, community events that the building put on are no longer available, even if socially distanced: “we’re not supposed to circulate with the other residents we’re not supposed to do anything other than stay in our apartment”.
This universal impact of the Coronavirus does not translate into uniformity of experience. However, there is a uniform understanding, or foundation to sympathize with those around us, regardless of demographic. For example, when asked about what she was most excited about for when the pandemic ends—whatever that means—she said, “I’m excited for myself, but I’m also excited for all the younger people.” she proceeded to elaborate, “They like to do lots of things, they’ve been restricted to where they can’t do much of anything; even go to school, and, they need to be out there going to school.” Being over 70 years older than many of BHS’s students doesn’t mean she doesn’t do many of the same activities as us all: she watched her home team in the Super Bowl for the second year in a row, and video chats with family, all while stuck at home.