Thoughts on COVID: Don’t Call Me Vulnerable

How do older people feel about this whole COVID-19 thing? The other day, I wrote a guest post for Amy Carroll (a P31 speaker and writer) called “Use Your Voice to Love” and a few comments really caught my interest. 

Aging is depressing, one person wrote.  I don’t like being considered “vulnerable” simply because of my age. I have no preexisting health conditions, another older woman shared. While there has been much talk on how the coronavirus has affected older adults’ mental health, the topic typically has revolved around loneliness and boredom. What I never thought about, however, was how COVID-19 is affecting older adult’s identity. 

COVID-19 has made older folks, particularly those who would rather be decades younger,  uncomfortable. Resentful even. 

While most people avoid sharing their age, what COVID-19 has done is pinpointed it.

Soon after health officials shared that older adults and those who are immunocompromised were most susceptible to severe illness from the coronavirus, it not only limited activity for those 65 years and up, I think it made them feel weaker too. 

In some ways, those under 64 have lucked out. Their kids aren’t hovering over them checking in to ensure they’re staying home. Those under that cutoff have more freedom. Freedom from the stigma of being considered “vulnerable.” 

What does “vulnerable” mean?

“Vulnerable” by definition means weak, susceptible, and helpless. While the CDC is simply addressing the fact that older adults are at a higher risk from getting severely ill from COVID, all of us, if we’re not careful may start believing that it refers to the older persons’ worth too. Think. The opposite of the word “vulnerable” is resilient. And though seniors’ physical health may not be as resilient to COVID, it surely doesn’t mean they’re not resilient in spirit. 

Out of love, we are now looking out for our seniors more than ever. Yet is it possible that our efforts to reach out may make our seniors feel like the needy one in the relationship? I’m starting to think that when younger neighbors, family, and friends reach out, our genuine concern could be misinterpreted. This isn’t reason to stop reaching out. Simply something to keep in mind. And a way to love more effectively.

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