PORTLAND: Isolated by the pandemic, older people have been hit hard by the loneliness caused by restrictions to keep people safe. Many of them sat at summer reunions, canceled vacation plans, and missed family vacation reunions in November and December.
In states with older populations, like Maine, Arizona, and Florida, health officials worry about the emotional and physical toll of loneliness, which poses an additional health problem on top of the virus.
But that is changing, and more and more older people are reappearing in public after being among the first group to get vaccinated.
Those who are fully vaccinated are ready to get out of Dodge without fear of putting themselves at risk amid a pandemic that has claimed more than 540,000 lives in the United States.
“Now there is an added level of confidence. I feel good moving forward, ”said Ken Hughes, a 79-year-old Florida resident who flies with his wife for an annual trip to Arizona in April, delayed by a pandemic.
Many older people are eager to board a plane for travel. Others look forward to the simpler things like eating out, going to the movies, or playing bingo.
Sally Adams, 74, was one of several seniors who showed up at “parking bingo” in Glendale, Arizona. She felt safe because she had been vaccinated and because she was in her car for the first bingo in over a year.
Once she has completed the time needed to achieve maximum immunity, she plans to indulge in little things like eating out. She and her husband, also vaccinated, only made take-out. Now they feel like it will be OK even to eat inside – as long as it’s not too crowded.
“We’re probably going to go take the table farthest from the others just to be on the safe side,” she said.
Indeed, many older people are taking a cautious approach, especially when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has refused to relax travel recommendations.
Frequent traveler Cindy Charest was so excited to leave for the first time in over a year that she posted an airplane emoji with a photo of her being vaccinated on social media .
But she’s taking a wait-and-see stance after the CDC recommended that you don’t travel by non-essential airplanes, for now.
“I think I got prematurely excited about this,” said Charest, 65, of Westbrook, Maine. But she’s ready to jump when the time comes. She watches for changes in orientation.
Others are also cautious.
“We’re still in the thick of it,” said Claudette Greene, 68, of Portland, Maine. “We’ve made a lot of progress, but we’re not done with it.”
Kathy Bubar said she and her husband were fully immunized but were in no rush to get things done. The 73-year-old Portland resident plans to wait until fall before planning a major trip. She hopes to go on safari in December.
“My goal in all of this is not to be the last person to die from COVID. I’m ready to be patient and take the time it takes, ”she said.
The Griffins were also cautious before finding their granddaughter.
Bill Griffin, of Waterboro, only dared to have close contact with his family members after being vaccinated because he suffered from lung disease, heart disease, kidney disease and d high blood pressure, all of which pushed him into a high risk category for COVID-19.
“Everyone wants to live for now, but the moment could have been very deadly. We have listened to the scientists, ”he said.