By Julie A. Gorges
I realize many of us baby boomers feel young and invincible, but I urge you to please stay safe during this pandemic. Although anyone can get coronavirus, it’s us baby boomers – specifically those ages 60 and older – who are more likely to become seriously ill from the disease. If you have underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease, you’ll need to be extra careful.
Like many boomers, I felt young and healthy and wasn’t overly concerned when this whole thing started.
After all, our generation considers ourselves to be extra tough. Aren’t we the generation that survived drinking water out of a hose and cars without seat belts? To think of all the germs we were exposed to as we played in the mud digging for earthworms and ate food dropped on the floor before germaphobia kicked in – and we were just fine.
Besides, look at the age of those running the country. President Donald Trump is 73, Nancy Pelosi is 79, and the two remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, are 77 and 78, respectively. They were all still going strong. My father, 87, was still running around despite all the warnings.
The cruel nickname, “Boomer Remover,” referencing the higher mortality rate among older people infected with coronavirus began trending on Twitter. The Washington Post became associated with the trending term by highlighting boomers who have ignored advice from the CDC and refused to make any changes to their lifestyle. On a Facebook page for “The Villages,” a Florida retirement community, most the residents seemed to agree that the pandemic was “being overblown.”
Now, I’m not advising that we boomers start panicking, but I think it’s time for an attitude adjustment for some of us skeptical boomers that have felt invincible to this point.
It’s important to remember that this disease doesn’t care how old you look and feel. Look at boomers Tom Hank and Rita Wilson, both 63, who certainly feel young-at-heart but tested positive for the virus.
Here in California where I live, there have been more than 300 cases of coronavirus. Schools in our area have been shut down. Bars and breweries have been asked to close and restaurants to cut their capacity in half. Yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newson urged all residents over the age of 65 to self-quarantine in their homes.
“We recognize that social isolation for millions of Californians is anxiety-inducing,” he said. But, “we need to meet this moment head on, and lean in and own this moment… and take actions we think are commensurate with the need to protect the most vulnerable Californians.”
Now, President Donald Trump has issued guidelines urging Americans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people.
It feels like I’m living in an episode of Twilight Zone.
So, it’s time to start taking this seriously my fellow boomers. My husband is 60 and I will turn 60 later this year, so I’m paying attention to all the guidelines. Let me be clear, I am not a medical professional, but I’ll share some of my research for specific precautions older adults are advised to take to protect their health. But remember: Recommendations for coronavirus may change as officials learn more, so monitor your local health department and the CDC for updates.
Here are some tips for those over the age of 60 based on advice from the CDC:
* Stock up on supplies including groceries, household items, and over-the-counter medications you’ll need if you become sick. Contact your physician about obtaining extra prescription medications you need to have on hand if self-quarantined.
* Social distancing is the new phrase for 2020. Stay six feet away from other people – think of the length of an average dining room table or a pair of skis. Avoid crowds and non-essential travel, especially cruises.
* You’ve already heard this, but wash your hands often with soap for at least 20 seconds. The health secretary Matt Hancock suggested washing hands while singing Happy Birthday twice, but other songs will work as well. For example, the chorus of Staying Alive will do the trick: “Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother/ You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive/ Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’/ And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive/ Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive/ Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive.” Prefer country? Try the chorus from Dolly Parton’s classic country song Jolene: “Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene / I’m begging of you please don’t take my man / Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene / Please don’t take him just because you can.” If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
* Avoid touching your face and frequently touched surfaces in public places – light switches, elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand if you must touch something. At home, clean and disinfect often, especially surfaces that are often touched like counter tops, tables, door handles, light switches, toilets, faucets, sinks – and don’t forget your cell phone.
In addition to these precautions, keep a careful eye out for symptoms that can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, stay home and call your doctor. Be sure and inform them that you have or may have coronavirus (COVID-19) so they can protect others from getting sick. Ask your healthcare provider for medical advice. If you have mild symptoms and are not sick enough to be hospitalized, you can probably recover at home. If this is the case, the CDC’s advises you get medical attention immediately if you develop emergency warning signs such as:
* Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
* Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
* New confusion or inability to arouse
* Bluish lips or face
This list is not all-inclusive and the CDC recommends that you consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are “severe or concerning.”
So my fellow boomers, stay safe but remain calm and positive.
Personally, I’m taking precautions, but still riding my bike and taking hikes outdoors while keeping my distance from others. If self-quarantined, be sure and stay in touch with your loved ones through texts, email, social media, Skype or FaceTime so you don’t feel isolated.
As Tom Hanks said to his followers: “Remember, despite all the current events, there is no crying in baseball.”