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  • John Grant

How COVID changed life forever for Florida’s seniors

Much attention will be rightly given to the Florida Legislature this week as it meets in special session to discuss important public policy decisions regarding COVID-19.

It is safe to say that COVID-19 has changed America forever. Government numbers show hundreds of thousands of people died, millions struggled through the illness, others lost jobs and loved ones affecting their mental health. Feelings of isolation and sadness spread through our communities. The trauma of it all forced many to reevaluate their priorities.

Seniors have been especially affected by the pandemic and how they navigate everyday life. Shopping, banking, even eating out has changed. And we can expect more fluctuations as we move through, and past, the pandemic. Essentially, this is not a snowstorm for seniors, it’s an ice age.

During the coronavirus outbreak, grocery stores set designated shopping times for seniors, lowering the risk of exposure, while uprooting daily routines and habits. Eating out turned into take-out. Bank lobbies closed, directing seniors to the drive through, that is if they had access to a car. Others had to figure out how to bank online.

Visits to the doctor’s office were limited giving rise to telemedicine, allowing for face-to-face communication albeit via the internet. Of course, that option was only available to seniors who had access to a computer and wifi connection. And we’ll probably never know how many older people suffered with depression during this nationwide exile from normalcy.

While parts of the country are getting back to a redefined normal, there are industries that may never go back to pre-pandemic routines and operations. What has become clear is the economic vulnerabilities of older adults and the critical need for improved ways to care for our aging population, in good and bad times.

At least 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day. By 2030, the nation’s entire baby boomer generation — about 73 million people — will have marked that milestone. And guess where a lot of them want to live? You got it, Florida. Twenty-five percent of seniors surveyed recently in U.S. News & World Report said they want to spend their golden years in the Sunshine State. In fact, eight of the top ten cities are in Florida. Weather and affordability were top factors, as were taxes and health care.

Florida must be prepared to care for these seniors by providing affordable housing and health care, especially for those who become sick and in need of constant aid. More changes are necessary. The nursing home and assisted living care industry says the time is right for advancements in how facilities operate. Advancement like technology. A recent industry-wide report suggests many long-term care facilities are increasing technology budgets, a direct result of the pandemic. The hope is technology will aid in monitoring patient health and living conditions making it easier on nursing staff, which we know is suffering from a post-pandemic shortage.

So, folks, one thing we can be sure of is more change. We could not ignore the pandemic once it hit our country. We cannot ignore the senior tempest headed for our beloved state. I am working to make sure good changes are being made to protect seniors and preserve the treasure of our golden years.


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