Mildred Stratton waves to a caravan of cars led by the Alhambra police and fire departments parading past her home, celebrating her 102nd birthday on May 20 in Alhambra. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Valencia High School

Opinion: Senior citizens are forgotten in our community as a result of COVID-19

When was the last time you saw your grandparents? Was it sometime in March? The day the government advised us to stay at home? 

As states relax their coronavirus restrictions, older adults are still advised, in most circumstances, to keep sheltering in place. The government keeps advising the seniors to stay at home a while longer, according to the CDC. Seniors, as well as individuals with medical conditions, are at the highest risk of getting sick from COVID-19. 

Yet after four months of sheltering in the same place, many seniors are being discouraged from seeing the outside world or resuming everyday activities. This shelter in place order has overlooked a big section of our society all in the hopes of keeping them safe.

With the highly anticipated school year resuming once again this fall, this change in season only signifies that these seniors have spent more than half of a year in quarantine. The same six months that could have been used to travel, spend more time with family, or just relax in their own homes in leisure, had there not been the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this time, the world has experienced heightened unrest like never before with fear of catching COVID-19, civil turmoil, financial instability, social isolation, and racial inequality to name just a few. 

Social get-togethers with friends, daily visits to the gym, and attending church. These are just a few of the daily activities that once seemed so trivial to our daily lives, but are currently unavailable to those who truly need them to navigate through these turbulent times.

Humans by nature crave and need physical interactions with one another in person rather than spend all of their time binge-watching Netflix or YouTube. Although apps and online communication exist, such as Zoom calls or FaceTime, they are not enough to overcome the overwhelming sense of loneliness that is rapidly growing within us all, especially for the elderly community.

Senior citizens may feel like their circumstances are not taken into consideration by a government that predominantly addresses the voices of the younger generation. The New York Times points out that many seniors may feel a painful sense of loneliness and anxiety about catching a potentially fatal illness.

These same seniors desire to scream and escape the world that limits their actions under the disguise of taking shelter for their own personal safety. Moreover, these same seniors continue to have the nagging thought that they’re not doing enough, wasting time, and staying inactive in their homes since the beginning of the quarantine.

In a sense, the shutdown impacts the sense of community while enforcing solitude and loss of structure. These feelings then continue to fester and grow larger and larger with each passing day. Especially since they have been forced inside and bombarded with bad news wherever they turn to the news, radio, or social media. With perspectives looking so bleak, seniors have no idea what the future holds or if they can ever go back to their old lives and daily routines. 

If these conditions continue, how much longer can these seniors sustain living inside? How much longer before they start experiencing a decline in mental health? Can failure to thrive lead to decreased appetites, lack of motivation, depression, and even suicidal thoughts? 

Granted, most of our grandparents are no stranger to falling upon hard times. Today, many elderly people have lived through World War II, the Vietnam War, Korean War, or even the Great Depression. They experienced such adversity and losses that were bound to have happened in their lives.

But, that had all occurred when they were much younger and had a spring in every step. Now, they have grown old and weary simply wanting to enjoy their golden years, a lifestyle that is not permitted due to the pandemic.

This then leads to the question: How much longer can seniors endure a withdrawn lifestyle away from society?