You're alone. No visitors. No activities. By yourself in a world that already was lonely to you.
No choice but to stay away from others and hope for a return to normal in “15 days.”
This was the reality for many of our older adults. What we didn't know in March 2020 is that 15 days would soon become 365 and counting.
This past year has been hard on everyone; this public health crisis has caused more harm than good for all age groups.
However, there was a specific set of individuals hit the hardest: older adults.
To date, 80% of the COVID-19 deaths recorded in the U.S. are of someone older than 65. Here in Allen County, the 20% of confirmed COVID-19 cases in those 60 years of age or older account for 90.8% of the COVID-19-related deaths in Allen County.
This May, we celebrate the 58th Older Americans Month. Typically themed in a fun way to acknowledge the contributions to our country of past and current older adults, this year's theme, “Communities of Strength,” sounds a different tune.
The resiliency shown by our older adults this past year is something from which we can all learn. For some, they had already survived one pandemic, one or two world wars, the Depression, terrorist attacks, recessions ... the list goes on.
And while this past year has been anything but fun, our older adults are full of hope and excitement as this next phase of post-pandemic life unfolds.
Vaccine distribution has made great strides in these four short months. Indiana has opened eligibility to all Hoosiers 16 and older, and all 50 states are on track to have eligibility open by May 1.
Current vaccine suppliers are tracking the efficacy of the vaccines on our younger populations, taking one step closer to the goal of “population immunity.”
The clients we serve at Aging & In-Home Services have reported gratitude, relief and hope these past few months – a major change from the reports of worry, fear and isolation we were receiving just a year ago.
The strength our clients and staff have shown is truly inspiring. We were able to continue the important work we do on a daily basis and even increase our caseloads and service offerings. One program we implemented, Grab n' Go Meal Distributions, served as a nutrition support program and also allowed for safe, socially distant engagement.
Staff grew close to the attendees who came through those biweekly distributions. Meeting their nutritional needs, they also were able to engage in small conversation, which made quite the difference in most attendees' lives.
For many, our distributions were the only “outside-world” interaction for months! On the days we served a hot meal to accompany the shelf-stable meals, many would park at a nearby lot and enjoy a meal with friends from their cars, at least two parking spots apart.
How can a group of people – who were ravaged this past year by a virus that caused so much pain, the loss of family and friends and missed memories with loved ones – come out so positively?
I may not have the answer, but I do think their resiliency has a lot to do with it.
That is a community I am proud to be part of. And I am lucky it is our community.
Connie Benton Wolfe is president and CEO of Aging & In-Home Services of Northeast Indiana.