The impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the world are far-reaching and have affected nearly everyone in some way or another. While countries are still contending with the virus and the new, more infectious variants, the end is in reach if we can achieve the necessary vaccination rates.
However, even if we were to completely eradicate the virus, society would still have to contend with the fallout for years to come. Seniors, unfortunately, will be some of the hardest hit even after we close the book on COVID-19.
Seniors Were Some of the Hardest Hit
The immediate effects of the pandemic were apparent and undeniable. Economies around the globe faltered as millions were either forced to adapt to stay-at-home orders and work from home or were let go from their jobs. The virus in its initial stages caused the immune systems in seniors to overreact, making them even more susceptible to the dangerous infection.
Seniors in the US were not only at higher risk of infection from the beginning but also suffered tremendous economic losses due to the shifting face of the pandemic economy. In 2020, workers 55 and older lost a collective 5.7 million jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were statistically less likely to be able to engage in the telework that became popular across many industries in reaction to the government-mandated stay at home orders.
Unfortunately, the US was unable to achieve the necessary levels of immunity since the rollout of the vaccine, either through vaccination or previous infection with the virus, leaving seniors once again at high levels of risk regardless of their vaccination status. Seniors will have to contend not only with the variants of the COVID-19 virus for some time, but also with the fallout from the first lockdown, as well as without many of the advantages that younger generations have.
Not everything is doom and gloom for seniors during the pandemic. For instance, the danger presented by COVID-19 and its variants is significantly less for those seniors aged 60-69 with a mortality rate of 3-4%, just above that of the general population. Seniors are a diverse group that should not be lumped together when discussing the medical and economic impacts of the pandemic.
While seniors may not be in as dire a position as they might think with such disparity in age and physical health, they are still at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to receiving appropriate medical care. For many seniors, even getting in to see a doctor in person is difficult as they might suffer from mobility issues or do not have a reliable way to get to their doctor’s office. Even when seeing doctors in person to discuss medical issues unrelated to COVID-19, senior women are even further disadvantaged, as the medical community has a nasty habit of dismissing or minimizing the physical pain of women.
If, collectively, we can overcome vaccine hesitancy and achieve the necessary immunity levels, life will largely return to normal for those who have been vaccinated. Seniors will once again be able to schedule medical procedures like vein surgeries and appointments, though it will be important to follow all health and safety guidelines put in place at any given medical facility, even if fully vaccinated.
Seniors Can Adapt
As more and more individuals are either vaccinated or gain immunity via prior infection with the COVID-19 virus, the economy is beginning to come to life once more. While many businesses are happy to open their doors and get back to work, it is not uncommon to see a company ask that their employees show proof of vaccination before returning to work. For seniors that were unable to engage in telework, this is a lifeline that will allow them to once more bring in income that was not possible throughout the majority of 2020.
For seniors over 65, even if they are unable to return to work and receive health insurance through their employer, they can depend on programs like Medicare to help cover the costs of prescriptions and hospital visits.
Health insurance in any form is vitally important for seniors post-pandemic, especially those that cover mental health services and medication. One largely overlooked aspect of the pandemic is the severe isolation many seniors experienced throughout the past year and even today. While society is recovering from the pandemic economically, the mental scars it has left behind will be contended with for years and seniors mustn’t fall through the gaps as the world moves forward.
Senior citizens deserve their golden years. Many suffered catastrophic economic losses during the pandemic along with more personal losses that may seem insurmountable emotionally. However, the end is in sight, and while the world might never be the same as it once was, seniors can take steps to protect themselves in regards to both their physical, mental, and financial well-being to reduce the negative aspects of a post-pandemic world.
Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer that lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to politics, social justice, and workplace issues. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.