By Lindsay Hutter
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, grew up during the Great Depression and lived their teenage years and early 20s during World War II. The Great Depression lasted from Oct. 29, 1929 to 1941. World War II, for America, started in December 1941 and concluded in September 1945.
Let’s put the pandemic in context. Yes, it is hard and many lives and jobs have been lost to it. But treatments for COVID-19 have improved dramatically since March, and vaccine breakthroughs appear on the horizon for later this year or early 2021. Some experts project that by spring 2021, vaccines will be in widespread distribution.
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 and support one another, especially vulnerable populations, including older adults. But older adults can also support younger populations by sharing their wisdom.
If you’re 65 or older, ask those around you to sport a mask and keep physically distant. They do not need to be socially distant: Letters, calls and video chats are all welcome.
If you’re 65 or older, you have the authority to ask younger folks if they want it on their conscience to be super-spreaders of COVID-19. There is no time like the present to draw on life lessons from the Great Depression, World War II and the civil rights movement to help teach young people about acting for the common good.
Adults who are 65 and older also have the power to encourage. Encouraging is a choice, and even a simple gesture can make someone’s day. For example, Dottie Moser, a soon to be nonagenarian at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads, spreads encouragement by sending humorous emails and quotes to the staff and residents there.
At Goodwin House Incorporated, we’re spending considerable time providing guidance for older adults in advance of possible COVID-19 surges in the fall and winter. From leading group buys of personal protective equipment to establishing online resources, we are maintaining a strong defense and preparing for more surges. Visit goodwinhouse.org/covid-19/ to learn about our efforts and view our resources for older adults during the pandemic.
When it comes to navigating COVID-19, there is plenty of guidance. What’s needed is the voice of experience and earned authority. That voice should come from our elders, who have wisdom to share from their experience navigating past challenges together and successfully.
Seniors: We need your experience, fortitude and sense of the common good. Teach us. Challenge us. Call us to our noblest selves.
The writer is chief strategy and marketing officer of Goodwin House Incorporated. She is also the daughter of Wanda and Gene Hutter. Wanda moved to Goodwin House Alexandria at the age of 95 after Gene passed away on Oct. 28, 2019. She continues to inspire those around her with her hard-earned indomitable spirit.