Let’s Talk About Older Adults and the National Pandemic Fear of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

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By Wambui Njoroge M.Sci

There is a serious health crisis that have enveloped USA as well as the globe.

Everyone is encouraged to take precautionary measures as shared by CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention, and WHO (World Health Organization). It is important to follow State and National restrictions for Public gatherings like conferences, retreats and other events. Many of them have either been postponed or will be, unless COVID-19 dies and dries up and leaves town soon.

PRAYERS: Our Prayers and condolences go to families who have lost loved ones, especially in Seattle, WA (King County). We are lifting up in prayer those who are hospitalized, those who are self quarantined, and those who don’t know that they have been exposed. We are also praying for health care and other service providers who are selfless in their outreach to preserve lives in all the nations of the world. This is unfolding as a global virus of such great magnitude. 

The main reason why I am probably not afraid is because I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. A second reason is that I was born and raised in Kenya, Africa during the times of epidemics to the extent that because of prevalent TB (Tuberculosis). I knew the word Quarantine before I knew the word Psychiatrist. By being alive might also mean that OAs have already been through a lot, though not COVID-19.  I am member of American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). I waited until I turned 60+ years of age. Therefore, it seems right that I should advocate for OAs at this time. If you meet me in person, I will tell you that I am a Keenager. I first heard this term used in my Church in TN and instantly liked it.  “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 71:18).

Why Older Adults (OAs) Should Not be Afraid: If all things are held equal, we are all aging and no one will escape. If a virus can kill all the elserly, the most vulnerable. Expect the children,to,follow.,them,it will be everyone. If this is not a Biological/Chemical weapon, what is it? Expect the children will be next and finally it will be all,of us in the population. Remember We,say often, “As goes the USA, so goes the rest of the world.” It seems to me that we are most afraid of anything that is foreign. This does not mean that OAs underestimate the current situation.  The COVID-19 no doubt has a global impact of a virus that doesn’t have known immunity, nor vaccine and it is foreign to America. That it is from China, which makes some people more afraid than necessary. We have learned to be suspicious of foreigners and foreign stuff.  But consider for once some facts from 2019. Deaths due to alcohol in USA alone amounted to 88,000. 62,000 men and 26,000 women (www.niaaa.nih.gov). Traffic deaths were over 40,000. How about Influenza? From October 2019-Feb 2020 according to CDC data about 12,000 people have died. This report is as of February 11, 2020. WHO estimates that Flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people per year. Am just noting that to illustrate the point about OAs and COVID-19. But we are not afraid of Alcohol, traffic deaths, and flue because we know them and they are familiar to us. They are from within the USA and not from China. How about OAs what is there to fear? Is the social media driving the fear beyond reasonable proportions? Let’s consider how we are aging to understand what is happening and why OAs are at risk and who are they anyway.

Aging  Gracefully or Not: To age gracefully, it is important to distinguish between two types of aging: (1) Primary Aging; (2) Secondary Aging. 

1. Primary Aging: is growing old naturally without having a chronic illness. The majority of our 60 + older adults (OAs) are in good health. Many live in their homes and they are actively involved in their communities. Many have not yet retired at 65 years old. I like to refer to them as Keenagers. So who are these 60 + people? Currently according to United States Census Bureau, USA population is 327.2 million. Out of this number OAs that are 60+ make up 68.7 million. When we refer to OAs in USA, we are talking about a huge population, large in terms of numbers than the entire population of my country of birth, Kenya. 

2. Secondary Aging: Refers to growing Old and having an underlying chronic illness that requires long term care. It is not a choice. This is the population that is at the greatest risk and has currently been impacted by COVID-19. For the most part, about 4.5 OAs live in Nursing Homes (NH); 2% are in Assisted Living (AL). 35% of OAs  in NH  are between the ages of 75-84; and 15% are 56-74 years. This population will perhaps feel the impact of social distancing more than any other single group. It comes at  a time when the one thing that matters most to OAs is family, friends and community support. Many might die quickly due to the combination of loneliness, isolation, social distancing within NH & AL, and whatever infection it is. Hopefully this COVID-19 will pass away quickly. What then makes social media so hyper about OAs who are 60 + I believe there are two opposing perspectives shaping our aging in the West. The 2 are an accient Greek Perspective vs a Biblical Perspective.

1. The Greek Perspective: It is my opinion that the social media  today views old age from ancient Greek perspective. The Greeks view of OA is that they abhorred aging because it represented a decline from youthfulness, it represented beauty and strength. One account I read while researching on the topic for my class in Aging and Dying indicated that; in Ancient Geek, being old was as bad as being dead; and being young was referred to as beautiful as a goddess. The only people exempted from this negative view were the elite of that day – the warriors, philosophers and statesmen. Is it any different today? How are we treating OAs? Watch out – One Gospel Hymn line reads, “Fairest flowers soon decay, Youth and beauty pass away…”

Wambui Njoroge

revwambuifavored@gmail.com

Senior Colunmist

Kenyan Parents In USA

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