Adults 65 and older have faced some of the strictest lockdowns and the highest risks during the COVID-19 pandemic. As they finally get vaccinated, seniors are reflecting on a year spent stuck at home.
- Now, I know never-- I-- ever like to have shots, but I feel though I have to get it. If the doctors say it-- and they are doctors. They are doctors. They know what's right and what's wrong. I'm taking the shot.
- I took a shot the day already, so I'm kind of nervous with taking this shot.
- I'm kind of happy we getting it done and kind of a little nervous. First time ever getting a shot.
- First time ever getting a shot?
- Yeah. I haven't got to many shot that that. It's kind of exciting in a way. But it's good. I'm glad we getting it.
- I had a lady not too long ago was a-- I believe she was about 102 years old. She was so excited that she actually did a fist pump to me and said, hit me with it, baby. So it's enjoyable to see them excited about this.
ERIN EMERY-TIBURCIO: As older adults begin to get vaccinated and begin to move out into the community, it's important to think about what are those meaningful activities that you might want to engage in. We have learned a great deal in moving through COVID about what older adults need in order to maintain their health, in order to maintain social connections, in order to prevent loneliness.
- The last year has been one of the most trying times that I can remember in my lifetime. No freedoms.
TOM JOLIE: There have been nine months where I have not had a meal with another human being. I haven't seen my daughter in over a year-- or the grandchildren in over a year.
GAIL STRAUS: The first and most important to me is not seeing my daughter and not seeing my grandson. I'm going to miss his being three. That's such a great age.
DALLAS PICKETT: My granddaughter-- she's 18 months old. Well, now I think she's 20-- 20 months old and she's getting around, she's running, she's walking, she's doing-- you know so-- so I missed that.
NORMA LOU BARVILLE: You never get over wanting to see your family.
GAIL STRAUS: It was initially as we all know-- yeah, two weeks we're going to lockdown and-- and then we'll be fine. And--
JOHN STRAUS: You know, a week became two weeks, a month and now it's a year later.
ERIN EMERY-TIBURCIO: Even before COVID we were aware that there was a relationship between social isolation and the decreased immune response, along with increased cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, and increased risk of mortality, such that it's even a greater risk than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
JOALICE REVAS: We definitely weren't able to socialize-- socializing, mixing, playing games, exercising with one another.
TOM JOLIE: Reading club, Scrabble club, trivia.
JOALICE REVAS: All this stopped the minute we went into lockdown.
TOM JOLIE: They just died.
EDWARD MARTIN: I like to get out and go to the park. Throw some-- I like to get out there and throw something on the grill.
GAIL STRAUS: The depression for me was very real and-- and, you know, kind of very much a loss of freedom.
ERIN EMERY-TIBURCIO: We've all seen in the news the fact that many older adults are in the hospital dying alone of COVID. And so some of the most tragic moments are those in which family members can't even be present at the end of their loved one's life.
EDWARD MARTIN: I had got sick once from the COVID. I couldn't eat for two weeks. I couldn't put nothing in my stomach. I couldn't hardly move. I stayed in a hospital for a little bit over three weeks. It was scary a little bit. I was worried, you know, if I'm a be around or if I'm a be joining my wife.
When I got out I didn't talk to nobody too much, but then when I learned how to video chat I start calling. It was amazing to me. It was something new in my life.
ERIN EMERY-TIBURCIO: Some of my patients who were able to learn how to use Zoom and learn how to connect with their family and friends in that way really came to thrive.
GAIL STRAUS: Thank goodness all of this happened in this technology age. We FaceTime with our grandson.
JOHN STRAUS: Any time he lets us.
GAIL STRAUS: Any time he lets us. And but that's often three or four times a week. And that may be just so that we watch him play.
JOHN STRAUS: But we've spent more time talking to good friends in these last few months of the year. We-- tonight we're having a Zoom call--
GAIL STRAUS: Zoom calls.
JOHN STRAUS: With four other couples that we're going to plan a trip we hope for 2022.
TOM JOLIE: I am the world's least competent person as far as technology. They've taught me-- now you're going to laugh. Please don't. They showed me how to use email. To me it was always a fad.
- And I've often referred to the Jetsons when we were kids watching-- seeing people on the TV and said, mom would you ever think that we'd be in that age where we see each other on the phone call.
JENNIE NEWSOME: I didn't really want a lot of people to FaceTime because some days I didn't look real cute. Everybody doesn't use YouTube and all of that, especially as seniors. We really don't. We're more, hello, how you doing. We're like the grandparents that years ago used to take the telephone and go hello, hello.
EDWARD MARTIN: Sometimes I can't-- I can't wait to the next class or the next video chat sometimes.
- The other question that I was thinking about in terms of the social aspect-- is being together-- as having each other as roommates.
GAIL STRAUS: Thank God.
JOHN STRAUS: Yeah.
GAIL STRAUS: We spend most of our time in separate rooms, but we--
JOHN STRAUS: You know, we don't always share the same TV interests and the opposite ends of the unit we can be together and apart.
JOALICE REVAS: You know, you get bored-- what can I do to entertain myself today. And trying to find different routines and things to do-- listen to music, watch to see what's on the TV news wise or whatever. I try to find things to do like, kalorama books and all kinds of puzzles and things like that.
TOM JOLIE: My wife-- she and I battled Alzheimer's for about 10 years. A very normal life until probably two years before she died. She eventually went downhill after 10 years and everybody loved her.
EDWARD MARTIN: My wife passed almost about two years ago. My wife had Alzheimer's and she was really sick and she was forgetting things. She still recognized who I was at least til the end. She know it wasn't no harm coming to her as long as I was around. She was my best friend. She was everything to me. And I always used to asked her I wonder why she married me. She used to say, because you're a great man and you're different from other mens. And I didn't see it, but she did. So that was the best choice I ever made when I married her-- in my life.
In a way I keep going because the thing about my wife a lot. My wife was a little strong little woman. She was short, but she was strong.
ERIN EMERY-TIBURCIO: The health care system has an opportunity to be able to screen for loneliness consistently as a vital sign, identify where loneliness is happening and take steps to mitigate. It we may be able to make enormous differences in older adult lives.
GAIL STRAUS: That-- that's-- that's our boy.
JOHN STRAUS: That's Kurt. Other than not being able to see my daughter and my grandson for well over a year now, our life's been pretty good.
GAIL STRAUS: And we also, fortunately, don't know anyone who got really, really sick or anyone who has passed away.
- Some of the difficulties with mom has always been very fastidious about her clothing and her appearance.
NORMA LOU BARVILLE: Goodbye.
- I'm excited that she has been vaccinated. I had to really hold back the tears when I heard that they were opening up and I could give her a perm.
JENNIE NEWSOME: I know everybody's looking at me about me having this no mask on. I have been vaccinated and I've gone through that last incubation period.
DALLAS PICKETT: I've taken my first vaccine Tuesday of this week. I want to be safe. I want to be secure about my health.
TOM JOLIE: The day that they came to give us our vaccine I saw people that I haven't seen in-- recently nine months.
JOHN STRAUS: I'm delighted. I had two shots and had no reactions whatsoever.
GAIL STRAUS: I-- I had a pretty bad reaction, but I knew it was going to be over.
JOALICE REVAS: About a half hour or so after the injections and when we got back after waiting we were very tired. So I ended up having like a two-- maybe three hour nap. OK, if that's all I'm going to have to deal with that's-- that's nothing. I can take a nap.
JENNIE NEWSOME: She gave me the shot. I didn't even know she had given it to me. You couldn't feel it.
GAIL STRAUS: The day we got the vaccine-- our second dose-- we got a call from a friend saying, OK, two weeks from now let's get together for dinner. And I said, we're going to a dinner party indoors.
TOM JOLIE: I hope we learn from this and realize we're not alone in the world.
EDWARD MARTIN: If you're scared to take the shot I advise you to go and talk to somebody. You know, talk to your doctor because all of us need to take this shot so we can walk around each other again.