When you’re over 65, spending a year inside is a substantial amount of the time you have left on the planet. It might be for a good reason, but that doesn’t make it fun. Now that most of those over 65 are vaccinated, they are ready to get out and about.
Across the United States, COVID-19 vaccinations are changing seniors’ daily lives in ways large and small a year after the pandemic drove many in the high-risk group into forced isolation. Older Americans are again visiting family members, eating at their favorite restaurants and shopping in stores without fear of death or hospitalization.
The emergence of new, potentially more virulent variants of the coronavirus is causing some inoculated seniors to return to their routines with caution, however. And the weight of so many deaths among their peers, plus the psychological burden that accompanied months of quarantine, will not dissipate overnight.
This week, Linda Dobrusin, 80, will welcome three friends – all of whom have also been vaccinated – into her home in Southfield, Michigan, to restart a weekly card game of canasta on hold since last spring.
The occasion is bittersweet for Dobrusin, who lost a lifelong friend to COVID-19 last year. The pandemic made a proper funeral impossible, so she watched the small graveside service via video.
For many seniors, the vaccine’s biggest boon is allowing them to see relatives again, after missing out on weddings, births, graduations and holidays. Older Americans in particular, who often face health risks apart from the pandemic, have felt the loss of a full calendar year deeply.
Lonnie Hanauer, 85, and his wife, Bette, are leaving their home in West Orange, New Jersey, this week and flying to Florida to visit their daughter, whom they haven’t seen since Thanksgiving in 2019. Last year’s Thanksgiving holiday was the first the couple spent alone, without their children, in more than a half-century.
“When you get old, you don’t know how many more.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday released new guidelines for vaccinated individuals, saying they can safely meet indoors without masks in small groups but should still don masks in public and avoid large gatherings.
Some 60 million Americans, or 18.1% of the population, had received at least one vaccine dose as of Monday, according to CDC data. Nearly 55% of those individuals were 65 years or older.