Opinion: A Plea on Behalf of America’s Seniors

There are 50 million seniors, age 65 and older, living in the U.S. today. This population and countless others that fall under the “mature adult” category are the most at risk demographic for contracting COVID-19. While stay-at-home ordinances may be relaxing and stores are beginning to open, these individuals are still imprisoned in their homes or care facilities, attempting to abide by guidance from health professionals. Unfortunately, as more retail opens and groups continue to gather in larger and more frequent masses, health and social-distancing precautions continue to diminish.

Yes, these are unprecedented and chaotic times. Everywhere, individuals are grappling with the “new normal” and what that means for their communities. But as our nation continues to heal and move forward, everyone must remember that there are populations still waiting to get their “normal” back, if they ever can.

I understand there are many issues to solve in our country at the moment, but I also believe that our apparent amnesia of this global pandemic’s disastrous effects will lead to another wave of coronavirus cases. This onslaught of new cases will only compound the issues our country has yet to solve and create new more dire issues for already vulnerable populations.

Seniors have seen a spike in depression since the onset of social-distancing and that social isolation is now being felt tenfold as they watch others reunite from behind windows. By continuing to ignore the health protocols and social guidance that should still be in practice, people are only prolonging that loneliness and the immense mental toll it will have on seniors.

America also seems to forget that these individuals are dealing with other chronic conditions and need access to medications and treatment. There are, of course, larger policies that should be enacted to improve access during this time.

Expanding in-home treatment coverage under Medicare or ensuring rebates are passed on to patients are both ways Congress can improve access to care and lessen the economic burdens this pandemic has created. Ultimately, though, it is on us, as fellow citizens, to do our part.

This rush to reopen the country and abandon safe practices has left many aging adults feeling disposable, but their needs should not be an after-thought. Quality of life is crucial to mental and physical health at every age and for seniors it’s more important than ever. Seniors want to get out too! They want to see their families and hug their grandchildren. Yet, acting on those desires comes with a cost, and for many that cost could be their life.

America must recognize that we are still grappling with a massive health crisis and only through renewed precautions and ultimately the discovery of vaccine will this problem finally come to an end. That is why I call on our nation to renew its dedication to health and safety protocols and abide by the rules our nation once clung to as a necessity for the future. All of us owe it to our elders and to the nation as a whole.