With the rapidly expanding front of COVID-19 around various communities in Berks County, The people of Berks are beginning to live their lives in the new normal that has been forced upon us. In various nursing homes and senior communities in our area there is another problem arising however. Senior citizens are faced with a whole other set of challenges.
When on the topic of loneliness, a study in 2018 published by Cigna US states, “Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.” In this report it is stated that adults of the age of 72 and up are of the least lonely group. But in the age of the Coronavirus every one of these groups are feeling the impact of loneliness more so than they would before. This is especially dangerous to those senior citizens who are used to their common social interaction, and are now cut off from their peers.
This can be helped however. With the heavy usage of several online platforms spiking around the states, seniors could still remain in contact with their peers, and family through the use of a video conference. They are free programs that could be all the difference in kicking the dangers of loneliness.
Nursing homes are a hotspot for this virus as well, as it can travel easily. These are among the hardest hit communities worldwide. Typically the virus hits the nursing homes and spreads like wildfire throughout the facility.
While this time can be a time of fear and worry for everyone, we cannot ignore the impact that age has on this virus. Pennsylvania has 25,345 cases, 1247 in Berks County, those 65+ have a hospitalization rate of 51% versus 29% of those 50-64. This shows that COVID-19 is exponentially more dangerous with age. This means that somebody who is infected, but isn’t showing symptoms may place the oldest of the population at an exceptionally high risk.
That is why several grocery stores throughout the county are offering specific hours for seniors and the immune compromised to come in and get their shopping done before the big rush of shoppers. While this time is uncertain and hard, these stores are graciously offering the “high risk” hours that could keep a generation safe.
Redner’s Markets is asking that the first hour and a half of daily operation (6-7:30 am) be reserved exclusively for those that are at the highest risk. This includes those that are elderly (60+), immune-compromised, considered to high health risk and pregnant.
“We are taking these steps in response to the overwhelming requests shared by our guests” says Redner’s President Ryan Redner. “We appreciate the patience that all of our guests have shown as we work to create a rewarding shopping experience during this unprecedented time.”
Additionally, many local grocery stores, including Redner’s are asking customers to refrain from bringing re-usable bags into stores. Although they are eco-friendly, they can also be carriers for the virus and could cause further spread.
Giant Food Stores and Boyer’s Food Markets have also included dedicated hours to the immune compromised and those 60+. Giant has provided the first hour (6-7 am) for shopping, while Boyer’s has provided 2 hours daily (7-9 am).
In a statement by Boyer’s Food Markets, they are encouraging the community to get involved. “We need all customers to cooperate and help support this program, by allowing these 2 hours to be exclusively for those 62 and older, we can provide the safest possible shopping experience for our Seniors.”
These current circumstances are far less than ideal, however, if we all do our part to keep ourselves safe, we will get through this time with minimal damage, however if we neglect to take into consideration the responsibilities that are placed upon us, we will cause far more damage than we intend to, or know. For updates and information on the Coronavirus, visit: https://acl.gov/COVID-19
BCTV and Berks Weekly are working together to bring you the stories of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. This media partnership is made possible in part by the support of Berks County Community Foundation.