by Joanne Devereaux
I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, the home of Mr. Rogers, and still remember seeing him all over town. His brand of “niceness” seemed to be expected of us, and during the winter months my parents always would send us out to shovel snow, making sure we helped our old neighbors first. All these years later, I feel like this sheltering in place is a giant snowstorm with lots of seniors needing assistance and suffering social isolation.
It can sneak up on people. During this extended period of sheltering in place, it is important to pay special attention to seniors living alone. In my work as an advisor and consultant to the elderly and their families, I know how easily life can get tough and what a large impact social isolation has on seniors’ overall health and well-being. At this difficult time, even basic activities are requiring extra patience and planning, which can be hard to handle.
A simple event like going to Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, or the farmers market, can be fraught with lines and empty shelves. If you are older and perhaps unsteady on your feet, using a cane, and not used to the added stress, it can be too much. Retreating can be a natural reaction but it may deepen steps toward social isolation.
Seniors pride themselves on their self-sufficiency and often are unwilling to ask for help. In the first week of Gavin Newsom’s order to shelter in place, one of our immediate neighbors sent an email asking if anyone needed anything. Many of our neighbors live alone and are well past eighty and this email set the tone for helping one another. By now, we are firmly settled into a new routine of daily living but those first weeks became a blur of anxious days. I’ve since made it a point to check in with family, friends, and especially senior neighbors.
In the early days of the pandemic, when the seriousness of the crisis first became evident in the Bay Area, two women, Paige Fleury and Krista Luchessi, put their passion and work experience together to launch Oakland at Risk – a program specifically tailored to match seniors in need with volunteers. If you want to volunteer to help you can do so via THIS LINK.
If you are a senior in need of assistance, you can SIGN UP HERE.
All this extra time at home has made us all look at our lives through a new lens. I often ask families about their safety nets. We are quickly realizing the importance of planning and improving our safety nets. It’s good to see city and government agencies during this pandemic paying extra attention to senior citizens.
Editors Note: Joanne Devereaux previously helped formulate and produce the February 2019 edition of the Splash Pad News that focused on homeless issues. She has lived in the Bay Area with her husband and daughter for the past twenty years. She launched Mindful Transitions in 2012 in order to provide consulting services for seniors who are considering moves or aging in place. Currently, she isn’t providing face-to-face consultations, but Zoom appointments can be scheduled if needed.