Along with the effects COVID-19 has had on the economy and the day to day lives of individuals, it has also created several social barriers. Following the implementation of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, many are unable to see their friends and families. One group, in particular, is taking it harder than the rest: America’s senior citizens.
In contrast with their younger counterparts, the elderly are more likely to be living alone in care facilities. This makes it much harder to connect with others virtually or in person. The virus targets those over the age of 65 and has killed nearly 250,000 individuals in that age group. Given that COVID-19 is significantly more dangerous for seniors, many of them have spent nearly a year worried and alone, with no one to share their fears with.
One Harvard Medical School professor, David Grabowski, believes seniors aren’t receiving the care and protection they deserve in these difficult times. He wonders “whether it was a good idea to blockade older adults in their nursing-home rooms for eight, nine, ten months out of the year, without letting them have access to their families.” Those living in homes already spend most of their time alone, looking forward to visits from friends or family members. Revoking one of their few enjoyments is a cruel decision on America’s part.
America’s ineffectiveness in controlling the deadly spread of COVID-19 has forced the brunt of the virus’s damage onto the elderly. Individuals older than 85 are 630 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those in their 20s, while 95% of COVID-19 deaths have impacted people older than 50. Kaiser Family Foundation has released data stating that more than 100,000 people in long-term care facilities have died from the virus. To put this into perspective, 40% of coronavirus deaths have impacted individuals who make up less than 1% of the population.
Overall, care facilities aren’t doing a good enough job of preventing the spread of COVID-19, especially when those affected are the most susceptible to the virus. These facilities keep people in closed quarters among others, utilize a rotating system of different staff members, and perform work that is often unavoidably close, like bathing or feeding. Yet, necessary precautions are still not being met. Care facilities are still tackling shortages of personal protective equipment and are struggling financially, despite help from the government.
Ultimately, the country needs to begin prioritizing care and protection for its seniors. There should be better restrictions in place and more resources offered to nursing-homes, especially when their residents are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Additionally, it is important that we connect with our relatives who are alone during this pandemic. Make sure to call or visit your loved ones (safely of course!) because they might need it more than you think.