• Phyllis Prestamo

Retirees - Are You Ready for the New Normal?

In March of 2020, when the government and CDC suggested that COVID-19 would impact every person through May or June, most Americans could not imagine such a thought, but here we are, quickly approaching the beginning of August with guidelines for how we will create the new normal and live our lives. Older Americans and those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of becoming critically ill from the virus, a fact that is undisputed. Life for those over 60 and for those who are immunocompromised simply can not go back to the way things were. Being retired both my husband and I did not find it difficult to “stay at home”. Our pantry was full and our small freezer in the storeroom had plenty to get us through a few months. And for some reason my husband had splurged on a stock of toilet paper and paper towels that were on sale in February. Others had to rely on delivery services or younger members of their families. Although we feel young, both of my daughters continuously reminded us that we were over 60 and had to be careful.

COVID-19 arrived in a world that was already trending towards working at home, shopping at home, DoorDash and UberEats, Netflix instead of Cineplex, says University of British Columbia professor and clinical psychologist Steven Taylor. “There has been a trend pre-COVID to make one’s home self-sufficient.” He does warn though that seniors are in danger of becoming isolated as they create cocoons of safety in their homes and we should be out and about in a healthy way.

So what does the new normal look like and how will it affect those who are retired? We have already started here in New Jersey to venture out and participate in the new normal and we should be careful about becoming complacent and forgetting that there still is a real danger for those of us of a certain age.

  • The Mask – We will be wearing them, so get used to it. I have several now and I wear them wherever I go. Not only does this protect both you and others, it drastically reduces the times one touches one’s face. Find a mask style that fits your face shape, be colorful, be sassy, be funny and be sure to cover your nose.

  • Washing Our Hands – As a former teacher and fortunately with a sink in my classroom, I was strict about hand-washing. The flu, colds and the dreaded stomach flu can be avoided if you wash your hands and Covid19 just reinforced that fact. The new normal should include this practice. After I come out of a store, I get into my car, sanitize my hands, and then remove my mask. When I get home, I wash my hands again at the sink. This should just become habit.

  • Social Distancing – I do not find this hard but obviously many do not do this evidenced by the increase in states added to the hot list. As a senior I do not plan on attending any large group gatherings. Our church is experimenting with outside worship starting in August. If we go, we plan on bringing our own chairs and socially distancing from our friends who also attend.

  • Exercise – For seniors walking is the best exercise. In our neighborhood, we have continued to do this sans masks and simply cross the street when we meet others. I have actually gotten to know a lot of our neighbors as we are all out walking at various times of the day and wave hello. I found a great Yoga site online fwfgkula.com – Yoga with Adriene is relaxing and fun and her videos have become of my weekly routine. Check it out!

  • Eating Out – Delivery in our area has been good and we wanted to do our part to help support our favorite restaurants. Before eating out we drove around to see how restaurants were handling this. Last week we went to the Chester Brew Pub which has extended their outdoor eating area into the parking lot. We were handed new paper menus, the whole wait staff was masked and gloved, and we were well-spaced apart. We masked while ordering and used hand sanitizer before eating. This of course is something you need to be comfortable with before deciding on dining out.

  • Shopping – We will probably continue the solo shopper route;only one of us goes to the store. We take a comprehensive list and neither of us takes more than 30 minutes for grocery shopping. We are investigating a scan as you go system that our Shoprite offers where we can scan and then place items in our bags. We are still using Amazon often and still use curbside pick-up.

  • Travel – Many seniors have spent years saving up for traveling during retirement. Just last spring, my husband and I spent 10 carefree days in London, renting an apartment, traveling the Tube every day, checking out the sights/museums and eating our way through local British pubs. No worries about work schedules or limiting our time away. Our plans however for a trip to Western Spain are on hold, and since the EU has restricted travel from the US we will just have to wait. Recently, states are being restricted as well and New Jersey, New York and Connecticut have recommended 14-day quarantine when returning from those states.

  • Going to the Salon – Last week I ventured out to my salon for a must-needed color and cut. I wore a mask the whole time, had my temperature checked before entering and stayed in one spot during my visit. I saw that chairs and stations were sanitized when people left. I brought my small wallet clutch which was placed into a plastic bag at the door, we could not bring in any water bottles or coffee etc. and I paid by credit card.

  • Going to a Doctor, Dentist or other Health Provider – Over the last month, both my husband and I have kept to our regular health visits. It is important especially for seniors to keep up with well-visits and medication visits. Health providers have updated the way they do “business” and encourage patients to not ignore their health concerns. I have a friend who had an earache and her GP came masked and gloved to her car and was issued a script; she never went into the building.

When it comes down to it, common sense should prevail. As retirees, we can not lock ourselves away, but we need to not jeopardize our own health or the health of others even older ones that we may care for. We are lucky now, with the nice weather that we can sit outside, walk outside, and eat outside, but come the fall and winter we might have to rethink even further how we go about our days. And our children and grandchildren may need us to step in to help as they try to navigate their new normal regarding work and school.

We are in this together – stay safe and God Bless!

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