Our Elderly and COVID-19: What to Know, What to Do and How to Help At-Risk Seniors During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Reported to be the population most vulnerable to COVID-19, aka coronavirus, our senior citizens have dominated the headlines lately. Why are we concerned? Earlier this week it was reported that in the US 85 percent of cases were in adults older than 60 and about 45 percent in adults over 80 years old. Multiply this by the projections of infections, and the number of potential victims is staggering. Imagine your parent, grandparent or any loved one over 65 and now, this becomes personal.

Seniors live in multigenerational homes, on their own or with a spouse, or, for more than hundreds of thousands of Americans, in retirement and nursing homes, often the most isolating scenarios of all. This week, a New York Times article reported on the danger of isolation these seniors in homes in particular are facing in New York, where nearly 2 million residents are over 60 and one in five over the age of 65 live in poverty. In other words, these Americans don’t have the luxury to do anything but wait this pandemic out, alone. This is happening all over the country, in your cities and towns.

Ongoing Advice and Updates from the Nation’s Top Resources

Caregiver.com offers a comprehensive list of links that are being constantly updated, including resources for a Home Plan to prepare for COVID-19. as well as what to do if you think you are sick with it, both presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For those in retirement communities, or with families/loved ones in retirement homes, here are the official recommendations from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). All of the advice is simple and stringent with social distancing at the top of the list; isolate as much as possible, monitor your health for any signs of fever or severe cough and be diligent about washing hands constantly.

The news is not all bleak, there are some promising news stories floating around, cases are slowing down in China, There have been a few cautious successes with drugs such as favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, and of course the abundance of feel-good moments, captured around the globe.

Grocery Stores Stepping up to Help

Bigger grocery store chains are stepping up and setting aside earlier hours for the people most vulnerable to the coronavirus – the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

Here’s a list of stores and their hours dedicated to serving seniors and the vulnerable:

Albertsons Family of Grocery Stores: From 7 to 9 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, the company is reserving time for “those vulnerable shoppers who must leave home to obtain their groceries, unless otherwise locally mandated.” Find the full list of Albertsons companies stores here.

Dollar General: The Goodlettsville, Tennessee-based discount chain announced it is dedicating the first hour in its more than 16,000 stores in 44 states to help senior shoppers “avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods.” The retailer said in a tweet that it wasn’t “qualifying a specific age” for the set-aside time.

Fresh Market: The grocer, which has 159 stores in 22 states, is reserving the first hour stores open, from 8 to 9 a.m. for “seniors and those most at risk” Monday through Friday.

Safeway: From 7 to 9 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, the company is reserving time for “those vulnerable shoppers who must leave home to obtain their groceries, unless otherwise locally mandated.”

Target: The retailer will “reserve the first hour of shopping each Wednesday at stores nationwide for vulnerable guests,” Target said, adding it is “encouraging other guests to plan their shopping trips around this timeframe.”

Whole Foods Market: All Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. and Canada will let customers who are 60 and older shop one hour before opening to the public.


How You Can Help

Get creative. Call your local food bank to see if they need help delivering food and supplies. In come cases, children are spending their time indoors creating cards for seniors. A recent PBS article cites a few ways to help seniors stay connected even in isolation.
Get on Facetime, Zoom, or Skype.  This might entail learning new technology, but it will be worth it to tune in daily to loved ones.
Go on a News Diet. Try to avoid the minute-by-minute updates, it’s rarely good news.
Find a Buddy. The CDC encourages communities to create “buddy systems” to make sure vulnerable and hard-to-reach people stay connected, particularly to news about COVID-19 .

A Word from Our Seniors

Before we get too freaked out, remember, this generation is the toughest. The octogenarians amongst us are not called the greatest generation for lack of a better word. These folks are resilient, resourceful and for the most part optimistic. To this point, we have checked in with a couple of senior citizens (octogenarians) to find out what they think they need during this time of sequestration and social distancing.

 Connie Wiley, former mayor of Belvedere CA

Tip: Pick up the phone!

Jim Wood, writer, former real estate and citizen of the year, Tiburon CA

Tip: Get outside and garden!

Barbara Rush, Actress

Tip: Stay inside and reach out to family.

Get more information and tips for those most at risk from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This article originally appeared on marinmagazine.com.

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Mim Towle

Mimi Towle is a Marin-based writer and editor. Currently the editor of Marin Magazine, she enjoys the various perks of her job, which include meeting chefs, winemakers, and inspiring characters. As a volunteer philanthropic advisor for the EACH Foundation, she focuses on needs in her home state of Hawaii. Some of her favorite nonprofits include City BeatHawaii Land Trust, and University of Hawaii Cancer Center.

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