Next Avenue: Work, daily life, family, loss, acts of kindness, silver linings—what readers have learned from the pandemic

The U.S. confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus in January. Looking back, we couldn’t have imagined how quickly and drastically American life would change — particularly for older adults.

Knowing that COVID-19 disproportionately affects people over 65, Next Avenue has been working hard serving those who may be at risk or are caring for those who are. They turned to medical professionals, mental health experts and thought leaders, and now: readers.

Next Avenue asked readers on Facebook
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about what they’ve learned from the pandemic, why that’s been meaningful and how they’re finding their own way forward. Some sent photos. Others inspire with wise, poignant and sometimes funny things:

Family

My 90-year-old mother-in-law lives in assisted living and hasn’t come out of her room in over a month. A Great Depression baby who lived through World War II, she’s sharp, healthy, and doesn’t complain. We can all take advice from her — she’s my hero.
– Kim M., Dunlap, Ill.

“My mom is a native of Japan, lived through World War II as a child and immigrated to the U.S. in 1958. I want to give her just enough detail so she knows why I’m doing or not doing certain things — like breaking our usual rituals — but not so much that she’s overwhelmed and propelled back into wartime.”
– Gwen I., Buffalo, N.Y.

“Our family has postponed several repairs that need to be done around the house, my son and I have postponed medical procedures and surgeries, and his dad and I have postponed the date we’ll file for divorce.”
– Megan B.

“I’m 84 and I live 200 miles away from my family. If you don’t connect with your family, now is the time to start. They will be healthier and happier if you do.”
– Carolyn W., Pismo Beach, Calif.

“I’m fortunate in that, while both sons live out of the area, we Zoom
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weekly and text nearly every day.”
– Freda G.

“My mother’s birthday is today. I have not seen her since mid-March. She has hearing and vision deficiencies. I know she asks for me; it’s very sad.”
– Lynn C.

Caregiving

“I’ve been going back and forth to visit my husband at a rehab facility. He’s recovering from a brain biopsy which proved to be cancer. It’s a scary situation. What if his treatment is delayed? What if it blows through the rehab center before he comes home?”
– Janie R., Dallas

“I am a caregiver. Today, one of my clients said to me, ‘You are a breath of fresh air, just having you here to talk to me.’ She’s 102 and still lives at home. Her kind words made my day, but also show how lonely older adults can be.”
– Jeanne H., Akron, Ohio

“My husband has dementia. I pray every day for his safety. If he gets hospitalized, I’ll fight to be with him.”
– Bev M.

“Good thing my mom lives with me, so I can keep an eye on her. I don’t want to see her get ill; she’s my favorite woman in the world.”
– Lily O., Pomona, Calif.

Grief and loss

“Mom was buried early. No service, no flowers, only five people permitted. I managed to buy some flowers at the local grocery store. We will do what she had planned, later. Mom grew up during the days of isolating due to polio. She would understand.”
– Holly A.

“I am missing my grief group during this time. Some had become good friends.”
– Rose T., Bloomington, Minn.

“We just lost our aunt on Friday. The last of her generation, she leaves a big hole in our hearts.”
– Kathleen F.

“If you can’t attend a service in person, send a card to the family, sharing how their loved one impacted your life and what wonderful memories you have of times spent with them.”
– Shirley U., Fairmont, Minn.

Daily life

“I follow Native American traditions, so my spiritual practices haven’t changed. Mother Earth is still Mother Earth and my ‘church’ is still among the Standing People and the Four- and Two-Legged. My prayers are always for the health, safety and education of all. May we all have an ‘attitude of gratitude’ and follow the good red road.”
– Melissa H., Niskanunya, N.Y.

“I color my hair every five weeks to keep it red. I get my nails done every three weeks. It’s always kept my spirits up. Now I am so depressed. I can’t wait until this is over.”
– Lynn P.

Work

“My small business is devastated by the coronavirus, since it helps seniors and families find assisted living or memory care. God only knows what the outcome of this is going to be.”
– Cheryl C., Campbell, Calif.

Watch:How bad is it if I withdraw from my 401(k) during the pandemic?

“Have to keep going to work, but feeling very anxious there, because of where it is — not quite ‘on the front lines’ but essential. There is lots of attention given to nurses and doctors, and rightfully so, but I hope people also remember the support staff.”
– Denise J.

“I’m a psychotherapist and have been using FaceTime with some of my clients. It seems to be helping them, but it’s not the same as in-person.”
– Patricia S., Silver Spring, Md.

Acts of kindness

“I put money as store credit at our local pet food store for a neighbor who didn’t have money to buy it. My reward is knowing her pets have their proper food.”
– Dolly S.

“I am 78. I sit at my sewing machine and make masks for friends, neighbors and relatives. I mail them all over. It gives me purpose and I hope it helps. I feel useful.”
– Ann P.

Also read: What daily life during the pandemic looks like to people across the U.S., and beyond

“One of my golf partners is in complete seclusion. So, I decided to perk him up. Got lunch at his favorite, Texas Roadhouse, delivered it to his home and then I FaceTimed him from the car. Had a good talk and great burger.”
– Lloyd K., Le Claire, Iowa

“My entire career was spent working with the have-nots, the disenfranchised, the often invisible. Yet it has taken the current situation to bring this simple truth to my attention in a deep and profound way: There are people who care about others, and there are people who don’t.”
– Renee M., Effort, Pa.

Finding the silver linings

“For my anxiety and depression, I’ve found getting out to walk on good-weather days really helps, even if it’s just around the neighborhood.”
– Theresa H., San Francisco

“The Virginia bluebells I planted. Reminds me that planting is a statement of faith and hope for the future.”
– Melissa S.

“By the time this crisis ends I might get caught up on laundry.”
– Carol N.

“Since my gym is closed, I took up jogging. I don’t go far, but I’m going to work up to it over time.”
– Kim W., Des Plaines, Ill.

“I have been calling people. Relatives I haven’t talked to in a very long time. Casual acquaintances I wouldn’t normally call. How are you doing? How are you holding up? How do you get groceries? What are you doing to occupy your time?”
– Nancy K., Royal Oak, Mich.

“I’m learning that I am very rich in ways that have absolutely nothing to do with money.”
– Mollie H., Guadalupe, Calif.

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