By Marianne Delorey, Ph.D., Executive Director, Colony Retirement Homes
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” –Bob Marley
Last year, I wrote an article on what it meant to be elderly and brave. I am updating that article for 2020.
This year, we are all being asked to be strong and brave in ways we never thought possible. We are asking people to put their comfort aside for others. We are asking some to put their lives on the line who have never been expected to do that before. Some are risking the safety of their family members just to continue doing their jobs by caring for those who are sick. We are being asked to be strong, and patient, and hold our hearts while we wait for a vaccine. We are being asked to forgo common comforts, and very soon, we are going to be asked to be brave again in a different way – we are being asked to try a vaccine that is new.
The word brave is often reserved for youthful and impulsive actions. Brave is often used to describe the actions of soldiers or first responders. This year, our first responders and front-line workers are being brave, but they always are. Also this year our elders will have to be brave and stand in line for the vaccine, even when they are unsure about it efficacy and safety. This year, the older generations have to show the youth how it is done – just like they did with polio and other diseases.
As with many of my peers, I have been reading and learning as much as possible about this vaccine. I know that we all stand on the shoulders of giants, and the people who developed these vaccines are no different. This is not brand-new science; this is based on ideas that have worked in similar situations. Yes, this is a big deal and yes, this was fast. We are all subjects in a mass experiment, but there have been several subjects already who have had the vaccine and the side effects are mild.
What about the long-term side effects? Yes, that is an unknown. Since this virus is new, we can’t be sure what the long-term side effects of the virus or the vaccine will be. But here you have a choice – faith in science or risking your health and the health of those you love.
I think about what bravery looks like in the elderly. Here is what I believe:
- Courage is agreeing to stay in for the holidays.
- Pluck is telling your family members they have to wear masks.
- Brave is refusing to play cards because one of the people went out to a restaurant.
- Fearlessness is getting tested for COVID-19.
- Nerve is mastering new technology that helps keep you connected.
- Boldness is finding a reason to laugh even when you are lonely.
- Heroic is taking a new vaccine with the hope of protecting the rest of us.
This year, I will note that bravery is taking the first step when you don’t see the whole staircase. We are all being asked to take that step, but elders first. This is hard, but it seems better than the alternative.
Marianne Delorey, Ph.D. is the executive director of Colony Retirement Homes.