photo of a man in his 30s with his grand mother, who is in her 90s

COVID-19 - July 16, 2020

Navigating COVID-19 When You Are 65+

by Lindsay Hutter, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer

Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, recently said “We may be done with COVID-19 but COVID-19 is not done with us.”

Sadly, that’s true. However, older adults have many opportunities to make the most of this time for themselves and others.

Let’s start with the title of this column. It is not “Surviving COVID-19”; it is “Navigating COVID-19.” That’s intentional.

Older adults have weathered societal risks and challenges beyond the current pandemic. Nonagenarians, like my mother (Wanda Hutter, pictured above with her grandson, Jared Hutter), grew up during the Depression and lived their teenage years and early 1920s during World War II. The Great Depression lasted from October 29, 1929 to 1941. World War II, for America, started in December 1941 and concluded September 2, 1945.

Let’s put the pandemic in context. Yes, it is hard and many lives and jobs have been lost to it. Yet treatments for the coronavirus have improved dramatically since March and vaccine breakthroughs appear on the horizon for later this year or January 2021. Experts project that by spring 2021 vaccines will be in widespread distribution.

Great Depression? 12 years.

WWII? 4 years.

Coronavirus pandemic? 1 year, possibly 1 year 18 months.

So what do we do with the time between now and widespread vaccination to support our older adults in navigating COVID-19 and living fulfilling lives?

We do what we’ve always done. We come together and we face it together. We set aside our differences, support one another and especially our most vulnerable fellow Americans, including the older adults around us.

Given the way younger generations have treated the risks of coronavirus, I wonder if it is not the other way around. That our older adults especially support younger adults, and perhaps also our elected leaders who struggle to come together and lead.

If you’re 65+, ask those around you to sport a mask and keep physically distance. They do not need to be socially distant (letters, calls, Zooms are all welcome) – just please keep physically distant. And not just from you – from everyone.

If you’re 65+, you have the authority to ask younger folks if they want it on their conscious to be super-spreaders of COVID-19. There is no time like the present to draw on your life lessons from the Great Depression, World War II, and the centuries-old fight of black Americans for civil rights to help teach young people about acting in the common good.

Our 65 and better older adults also have the power to encourage. Encouraging is a choice, and I can tell you that Dottie Moser’s daily encouraging emails to me are priceless.

Dottie is a soon to be nonagenarian at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads, and a modern-day Barnabas who spreads encouragement with humorous emails and quotes to the staff and residents there. Want to be immortal? Spread cheer and encourage others to find their noblest selves. And oh my goodness, now more than ever we each need to find our noblest self.

This column was slated to provide guidance for older adults in advance of possible COVID-19 surges in the fall and winter. We’re spending considerable time on this topic here at Goodwin House. We serve nearly 2,000 older adults each year across Northern Virginia through our retirement communities, at home program and various health care programs. From leading group buys of Personal Protective Equipment to ongoing testing of residents and staff to establishing online resources for our residents and members, we are maintaining a strong defense and preparing for more surges. Visit our COVID-19 section to learn about our efforts and view our resources for older adults during the pandemic.

When I started to write this column, what become clear is there is plenty of guidance. What’s needed is the voice of experience and earned authority. This column became a heartfelt plea, born out of deep respect, to ask our elders to give us their wisdom from navigating past challenges together and successfully.

Teach us. Teach us, all. Challenge us. Call us to our noblest selves.

We need your experience, fortitude and sense of the common good.

This article was written for and published in the Alexandria Times on July 16, 2020. Read the original article.

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