Facing Isolation and Stress, Seniors Grapple With Coronavirus Threat
Chayim Lando, 57, of Northwest Baltimore struggles to keep his mind at peace these days.
He does have his immediate family in the house, but he divulged in a guilty tone that his wife would probably still call him anxious. While he takes all the CDC precautions, Lando, like many, still does not feel safe.
“I happen to know quite a few people who have passed away from the virus, not in Baltimore, and others who contracted it,” Lando said. “None of my family, thank God, passed away. But a colleague of mine who I taught with for a number of years passed away last week, and other friends and acquaintances.”
He was upset by the news, but slowly he is becoming more numb to the shock. Lando doesn’t want to become desensitized, but the situation is overwhelming.
“The first week I was tracking the numbers of how many are sick and dying, but now the numbers are becoming so high it’s meaningless, and I don’t even look anymore. It’s beyond comprehension,” he trailed off.
Passover went by, and Lando was sad he was not able to see his grandchildren this year.
Fortunately, he has his landscaping business to help keep his mind busy.
Community is another helpful tool for helping seniors ease their anxiety. That’s the case for Hinda Blum, 65, of Pikesville. As she enjoys a walk in the spring weather, Blum is grateful that many in her friendly neighborhood are outside talking to people while respecting boundaries.
But as the days pass, it’s impossible for isolated seniors to escape the depressing pandemic.
“The news is way too painful for me to look at. People are choosing to tune in just once a day,” Blum said.
Linda Miller, 75, of Randallstown passes the time with exercise, books, texting, cooking, or other things that have all become robotic now.
Yet, “I will admit, I have had days of feeling depressed, usually on the weekends,” Miller said.
Blum echoed the sentiment. “There is a lot of grief attached to this. It feels like I am losing out on connections,” she said. “It is difficult. I am trying to sit with the intensity of my feelings and move through them to see the good things.”
The good things, Blum said, include “a lot of chesed in the community.” People call her to check up, and she in turn calls others to check in.
In fact, chesed is a great way to cope. Shoshana Shamberg, 57, of Northwest Baltimore feeling great because she’s picked up an old hobby of hers from a few decades ago: sewing, to make face masks. Shamberg already gave away about 20 and separately donated kits for others to make some. She’s also working on a document on how to care for yourself, and what resources to trust.
One member of Blum’s neighborhood generously developed an app so that when someone goes to the store, they message the community and ask if anyone else needs something. On another app, Blum said she was brightened by evidence that there have been some environmental benefits from the pandemic.
Seniors agree that technology has helped distract them, and that it can offer them help.
“Technology is a wonderful thing,” said Marlene Wolff Solomon, 66, of Owings Mills. However, she noted that there needs to be more of it to test people and provide ventilators.
Lando concurred that technology is helpful. He made his own series of Haggadah classes on YouTube, and his company is used to virtual communication, “but at the same time there’s definitely some things that are definitely lost now.”
Miller, who hates technology, is now grateful it allows her to participate in JCC virtual programs. Blum has learned how to use Zoom and finds herself a little bit too immersed in comedy apps.
“I need to take a break from it and see the sunshine,” Blum said. She is growing weary of the closed lifestyle. “In the beginning, I think I had a good attitude and was fine, but I was going to the store and now I decided not to go to the store because I am older and I’m around my mom who is older,” Blum said. “I just miss being around people, going to their houses, the groups I’m a part of. We all miss that. It’s just really hard.”
“I have to admit that I miss my life, my friends, family, activities, everything,” said Miller. “However, I know I am blessed.”
Wolff Solomon said her spirits are lifted by the medical staff of the nation.
“The fact that we are in the United States of America gives me hope because we have brilliant physicians, medical teams, and experts in many fields to help us with this devastating coronavirus pandemic.”
Ideally, Lando said, people will reach out to seniors and fight off one of the pandemic’s worst symptoms: isolation.
“Let them know they have friends who still care about them,” said Lando.