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A rallying cry for our health and the community’s health

Sadly, I fear that we are experiencing another division between us during this pandemic.

There is political discord, racial inequity, economic disparity, differences in the care of our environment, and now it seems there is a divide between younger and older folks. As if it wasn’t enough that so many people refuse to wear masks, social distance or take personal responsibility to stop the spread of this pandemic, now we likely have another issue that separates us and holds us back. We could be working all together to stop this vicious disease, but we are moving farther and farther away from any kind of united front.

I’m sure we have all run into situations where we, as older folks, don’t feel safe when out doing only essential trips. The “COVID Minimizers,” as The Week Magazine calls them, insist on going without masks, disrespect social distancing and believe their freedoms are more important than our desire to stay safe. When I speak up, I get all sorts of different reactions, from rude to insulting to apologetic to no response at all.

As we age, we are more likely to be affected by this virus, so most of us are really paying attention on some level. We are trying hard to be conscientious, doing what is suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and keeping it under control. We are also not traveling to see our grandchildren, not getting together in groups and missing people we dearly love. That’s why the numbers of deaths, more probable in our age group, have gone way down. But many people don’t really care about older folks, as evidenced by the virus devastation in nursing homes.

The number of cases is spiking though, even here in La Plata County. A huge percentage of increased cases are with younger folks. Do younger people just not care anymore? They want to go out and gather in groups, not wear masks and party on because if they do get sick, they probably won’t die like we would. Younger people can become super-spreaders, infecting many others whether they have symptoms or not.

Have we become this insensitive to each other? Is getting back to what life was like before COVID-19 hit more important than the lives of fellow human beings? What is our social responsibility here? Isn’t public health important enough to halt this ever-increasing scourge, or is the economy and just having some fun more important? We elders have given up lots to flatten our numbers. Is the past almost four months for naught? Where is our common decency?

It’s every man/woman for him/herself. It’s up to us to protect ourselves, with personal decisions based on feelings of safety and well-being. So sad.

Younger folks are becoming more distanced from us. In previous generations, wise elders were carriers of the culture and handed it down to the youth. Elders were respected and revered. Many of us are trying to re-establish these kinds of relationships, with mentoring and advising, modeling and grandparenting.

Lack of federal leadership and a complete failure of our institutions has created this. I wonder if we had different leaders if we could be brought together to cooperate. Thanks to City Council for extending the mask ordinance, but it doesn’t do much good if people don’t work together to abide by it, young or old. And what about all the folks coming into our area from hot zones? Why don’t we have some sort of quarantining in place?

As things get trickier and tricker, may the force be with us. May we continue to think, discern what is true, be vigilant and care for ourselves, others and our community during this time of reckoning.

Martha McClellan was a developmental educator in early childhood for 38 years. She has moved her focus now to the other end of life and written the book “The Aging Athlete: What We Do to Stay in the Game.” Reach her at mmm@bresnan.net.