Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other.”
~Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi blessing while praying for an end to Covid-19
We seniors have been identified as the most vulnerable of all segments in the total population, especially those of us with underlying health issues.
But, the truth is that not all seniors fit into a standard profile. There are a great many seniors who are using their experience and wisdom to provide leadership and direction during this crisis. Within the Church, our Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, pastors, clergy and parish leaders are finding new ways to serve the faithful. There are also many senior leaders in our national, state, local governments, organizations and corporations who have joined together to serve those in need.
Let us also recognize the multitudes of seniors – including doctors, nurses, scientists, and researchers, front-line and first responders – whose skills and courage are being tested daily as they place themselves in harm’s way.
There is another group of seniors who are playing a vital role during this crisis. It is those seniors who are staying at home, obeying the guidelines while offering their prayers and support. Please join together in offering all seniors our gratitude and prayers for continued wellbeing, discernment and courage.
It is absolutely vital that all of us, including, and perhaps most especially, we seniors maintain the perspective. Although many seniors have been impacted directly or indirectly by the crisis, we should try to avoid becoming negative and withdrawn.
A major contributor to the negative perception is the avalanche of information that tends to focus on the tragedies and not as much on the positive contributions.
Let me offer some suggestions to help quell our anxiety and provide a short checklist of the things we could be doing to better cope with the impact of the Covid-19 virus. I’ll put the suggestions in the format of an acronym by using the word “SENIORS”.
…..stands for SANITIZE. A reminder to wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, especially after using the restroom, and before eating, and avoid touching your face (eyes, nose and mouth). Stay at home, maintain a social distance of at least six feet with people not in your household, and sanitize the things you touch most frequently.
…..stands for EXERCISE. Do whatever you can physically to keep your body healthy, and also exercise your brain by reading, writing, engaging in stimulating activities.
…..stands for NUTRITION. Make sure you eat properly. There are numerous organizations in our parishes and community that are ready to help in case you need a resupply of anything.
…..stands for INFORMED. Inquire regularly for the current status in your parish and community. Also visit the Archdiocese website (https://www.archatl.com/covid-19) for any new links to the latest information and resources, including the “Senior Ministry” tab.
…..stands for OFFER prayers. Although you may not be on the front line of defense, you can become a prayer warrior and offer your prayers for your family, parish, community, nation and world. God has an open heart for seniors.
…..stands for REQUEST help. We are all in this crisis together. There are many resources available. If you need anything, please ask for help, even if you are lonely or confused and just want someone to talk to. Contact your parish or utilize any of the resources that offer assistance.
…..stands for SPIRITUAL adjustment. We are learning to adjust and find new ways of practicing our faith. Since we can’t attend Mass at our parish, we can have access to a live streamed Mass. The Archdiocesan website has a listing of daily Masses. We can’t receive communion sacramentally at this time, but we can make an act of “spiritual communion”… the website explains the process. We can’t go to confession in our parish, but several parishes have offered alternative opportunities outside the confessional or reconciliation room (at least before shelter-in-place orders, which are temporary). Importantly, we can join with Pope Francis in his global prayer sessions. Go to www.vaticannews.va for more information.
Also, let’s be sure to look after our fellow seniors, especially the homebound and those living in senior residential facilities. Many of our brothers and sisters are feeling abandoned, lonely, confused and in great need of companionship. Although we can’t visit, we can still call or send emails or write notes to those we care about.
Remember to pray for the doctors and nurses, first responders and those on the front line who are putting themselves in harm’s way out of a sense of commitment and true love for their Creator and neighbor.
If you are a regular reader of the Senior Side, you know that my wife and I have two special needs adult sons. They are now confined to their group homes since their day training program was put on hold. We are not allowed to visit them or bring them to our home, for their sake and ours. Both sons have reduced mental capability and they can’t quite understand what is happening in this new world. We talk to them daily but we agonize that we can’t be with them. We are so very thankful to the dedicated caregivers in their residential homes for the tender, loving care our sons are receiving.
It gives cause to remember the many family members who are caring for aging parents, relatives or children, neighbors and friends, including the homebound and those in residential homes. We truly understand and appreciate your many sacrifices.
I believe that we will experience a “new” normal when Covid-19 has passed. We will probably continue to wash our hands more frequently out of habit. We may not return to shaking hands routinely or hugging friends and colleagues. We will learn to cough and sneeze properly and maintain a respectable social distance. We may avoid or reduce jam-packed public transportation and shy away from large crowds. We’ll learn to have a reasonable amount of necessities in our medicine cabinets and pantries to avoid binge buying. Many employers will see advantages in adapting work routines and allowing some employees to work remotely with less time at their place of employment.
We didn’t really wish for or desire this new normal, and we didn’t have the ability to change its course. It will simply become a part of a new reality … the new normal.
It is my hope that all of us will now have a renewed appreciation and awareness for the many things we take for granted. This terrible scourge has taken away parts of our freedom … our mobility … our desire to do the things we most enjoy … in particular, our need to be with loved ones, friends and colleagues. We can dwell on our losses or we can view these challenges as contemporary crosses that we as Christians are called to carry.
As I write this article, we are about to enter into Holy Week. Once again we are witnesses to the greatest gift that mankind has ever received … the gift of eternal life which came from the Passion, Death and glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Importantly, we will all have a new appreciation for the opportunity to attend Mass with our faith community and receive the Holy Eucharist.
I urge everyone to put our collective trust in God. Always remember that God loves us. We need to continue to pray and ask God to bring an end to the Covid-19 virus. Pray also for the many people who have been afflicted and especially for those who have died.
Finally, we pray that we will never, ever experience another Lent and Easter like the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020.
May God bless and watch over all of us.
The Senior Side column is written by William L. Clarke, former business executive, professor and senior citizen. He serves as the Associate Director, Senior Adult Ministry for the Office of Formation and Discipleship. firstname.lastname@example.org. Mary M. Cohen, Consultant in Senior Adult Ministry contributed to this article. email@example.com
If you are new to the “Senior Side” column, you can read future columns in the Georgia Bulletin, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. https://georgiabulletin.org