Family Friday: What If All Our Elders Were Family?

Readers of this blog will recognize some of my aunts and uncles by name: Snooky, Elaine, Terry, Carl, Marie. And cousins, loads of cousins. They were all once the province of summer, the midwestern landscape that my Foreign Service family visited on what the State Department calls “home leave.”

These days, we keep in touch with each other by text, email, letters, telephone, Facebook, Zoom. No one is left out. Many of us have had at least one vaccine, several of us lucky enough to be fully vaccinated.

The same cannot be said for millions of older Americans who are isolated, an increasingly perilous condition during this awful pandemic. Technical challenges, narrow access points, and a widening eligibility pool all threaten to leave our most vulnerable unvaccinated.

Older Americans are isolated

Jean Andrade, an 88-year-old who lives alone, has been waiting for her COVID-19 vaccine since she became eligible under state guidelines nearly a month ago … an untold number of older adults like Andrade are getting left behind, unseen, because they are too overwhelmed, too frail or too poor to fend for themselves.

Gillian Flaccus, Heather Hollingsworth and Russ Bynum, Associated Press

access to vaccines is limited

It was hard enough to score a vaccine in Florida when only those aged 65 and above were eligible. Now, the floodgates have opened to anyone with underlying medical condition as well as teachers and other workers.

Floridians who are 75 and older make up 62% of the residents killed by the coronavirus since the pandemic began, but only 32% of the people who have received their second of the two-shot vaccine, according to state numbers. I suspect computer literacy is the culprit. Navigating online signups successfully has required an alacrity with running multiple screens at a time and entering data at lightning speed as available sign-up slots disappear.

Frank Cerabino, The Palm Beach Post

So let’s behave like family

It’s time to begin emergency airlifts of ungrateful grandchildren to Florida until all grandparents are registered.

Frank Cerabino, The Palm Beach Post

Or, as a local politician who steered vaccines to a client community of affluent seniors recently said:

I hate the thought that anybody would think that I would only be going out and helping one community because I’m their lawyer; that bothers me….They’re not just a client of mine, but they’re like family,” Bogen said, according to a Sun Sentinel article.

Mark Bogen, Broward County Commissioner and lawyer for Wynmoore, quoted in article by Herald Tribune reporter Zac Anderson

Maybe it’s time to behave as if the elderly were family to us all.

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