COVID-19 Through the Lens of Our Elderly: What Do We Really Need?

A chance for us to gain perspective from our beloved seniors

A reality check

Our elderly loved ones are the most vulnerable and most likely to suffer death from COVID-19. We must first protect our elderly by distancing as much as possible. Unfortunately, we will not be there to hold their hands if they are hospitalized. 

We have all heard these sentences and many more circulating cyberspace. We have also read dozens of articles suggesting ways we can help our elderly population while observing social distancing. However, what can go missing from this abundance of information and opinion  is the very perspective of those we are trying so desperately to protect. How do they view the events of Covid-19? What services do they really need? What do they miss the most?  And most importantly what can we do to help?  IRUSA spoke to some of the elderly in an attempt to capture the events through their eyes. 

A simple phone call 

“ Just call to see how I am doing”

While a lot of the focus on social media had been encouraging others to run errands for the elderly, such as grocery shopping, the most common request that emerged from many of our interviewees was slightly different:  “Just call to see how I am doing” said sister Nafisah, 84, from Washington D.C.  An answer that was echoed by others as well. Many of our seniors are feeling lonely these days and are missing the sense of community.

They hold a special desire to share the stories of the past with the younger generation stresses through meaningful conversation. “I think younger people don’t utilize resources in the community,” says Amina M. 63 from Reston, VA. “There are loads of seniors in the community who have stories to tell…talk to people who have experienced something like that or other hardships before,” she added.

What other help is needed

Help with getting groceries, meals, and medications from pharmacies has been another major request among people surveyed.  Many expressed some difficulties navigating all the new online services and applications available to them and have voiced their appreciation of younger people helping them with technology. Connecting with family members through online platforms, such as Zoom,  was also listed as a top priority. “This is a valuable time to have conversations that we didn’t have for whatever reason”, said Amina M. 

A longing for churches and masjids to see friends

When Sheryl T., 69 from Durham, NC was asked what is the one thing she misses doing the most and can’t do anymore since the outbreak of COVID-19, she replied that she misses going to her church to pray and meet families and friends. Similarly, Hajar S., from San Diego, CA, reported that she missed going to Jumuah prayers at Masjid Mohammed, where she used to go to every week. She also mentioned that times are especially exceptional during this Ramadan, as people will not be able to pray in mosques. However, “it is still Ramadan. you can still fast and make your salat (prayers)” she said.

“Believe in a higher power, because that’s what gets us through times like this.”Amina, M., 63, Reston, VA.

“If we don’t believe in something greater than ourselves, we’ll fall into despair,” said Amina, M. “Talk to people who have experienced something like this or other hardships before,” she advised the younger generation. Other advice came in a slightly different form: “Boil some water. Put some orange in it and heat it in the water. Wash your hands and wear gloves” Said Nafisah, 84. “Keep praying…hope for the best and plan for the worse,” she concluded. “Do a lot of praying. This too will pass,” echoed Jackie, 63. “ Reach out to friends and family. Talk to them because they may have some encouragement. This too will pass!” 

And so we hope too!  But until it does let us hope that our beloved seniors will be able to get what they really need before we make assumptions. And who knows, maybe this COVID-19 crisis turns out to be a great opportunity to unveil the hidden gems of their past. A past we might never have access to again!

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