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The Canadian press
Grandparents in the pandemic: a lost year, but now some hope
CINCINNATI – No nights with popcorn and Disney movies. No dance evenings or festivals, let alone a grandparents day for visiting the children’s classrooms. No hugs. The first 12 months of the pandemic are a lost year for many in the largest group of grandparents in US history. Most of the country’s 70 million or so grandparents are in the fourth quarter of their lives and the clock keeps ticking. “When I work with older adults, I see a lot of depression, a lot of heightened loneliness,” said Nick Nicholson, professor of nursing and aging researcher at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. “It was really difficult … the fear, the despair, the social isolation. There are so many adverse effects over time. The sooner we expand the bladder, the better so that people can heal together. “Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week offered some first steps for the second year, saying fully vaccinated grandparents could visit a single household with healthy children and grandchildren without masks or other special precautions. Doris Rolark gave her masked grandchildren and great-grandchildren air kisses as they gave presents on their 78th birthday last month. She resumed the hugs last week after the CDC guidelines were announced. “It was great. I look forward to seeing the rest of them,” says the Middletown, Ohio woman who has three grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. “I hope it gets better now.” Joe and Nancy Peters had last One of their eleven grandchildren was visiting one week after they were beginning to “cautiously return to normal,” he says. Both retired educators in their seventies were used to engaging with the grandchildren, all of whom lived near Cincinnati, before the pandemic and its safety restrictions came in. It was especially hard to lose time with the youngest. “They are 3, 4 and 5 years old and a full year has passed,” says Nancy Peters. “They have changed a lot. . and Amelia said to her mother every day, ‘I’ll stay with Grandma when the coronavirus is over.’ “And now she’s no longer 3,” she says. Both Peters and Rolark have been fully vaccinated as the rate of shooting has increased across the country in recent weeks. An estimated 60% of those over 65 have received at least one dose so far. However, the CDC reports that only 10% of the total population have been fully vaccinated and recalls that susceptibility increases with age. According to the CDC, eight out of ten people who died from the virus in the United States were 65 years or older. Nicholson says that after a year of isolation, some older adults “just break the door to get out,” while others remain concerned about variant strains and other strangers. “You are wondering, is it safe?” he says. REGULATION: CAUTION Joaniko Kohchi, director of the Parenthood Institute at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, says grandparents and other family members must be careful trying to return to what is considered normal. “There will undoubtedly be an adjustment phase that will continue. Planning and flexibility are really important, ”she says. Also unknown: How badly some older adults have been hurt not only emotionally but also spiritually from losing personal contacts and other activities outside their homes for a year. “I think it can be very difficult to see two or three people at a time,” says Arman Ramnath, whose Indian-born grandmother Vijaya Ramnath, 94, has lived with his parents in Columbus, Ohio, since he was born. “It kind of ages you faster.” While many grandparents stay in touch through phone, text, and video chats, others have no access or ability to use this technology. A study conducted last September and October found that older Americans are resilient, but also showing signs of problems. Many report decreased happiness and some reported increased loneliness and depression in winter. When the weather was good, the Peterses had moved on and received many driveway visits, including a one-person dance evening for them from a granddaughter. They attended dozens of outdoor events such as baseball and soccer games last year but were unable to attend the grandchildren’s indoor basketball games. “It was pretty tough,” says Joe Peters, who has reported on Saturdays in the gym for the past few years when they played up to eight children’s basketball games in a day. Many grandparents actively help their children through babysitting and school or day-care centers. Pandemic barriers, on the other hand, have created a “lose-lose” situation for families, says Nicholson. Rolark from Middletown, Ohio has always been active with the offspring. She raised three children as a divorced single woman, and two of her great-grandchildren lived with her through high school. Her descendants repaid her for all the years of her support during the pandemic when she also had a full-time office job at a steel company. “I couldn’t have done it without her,” says Rolark, who says great-grandson Amarius Gates shoveled her driveway in winter while granddaughter Davonne Calhoun and others in her large family ran errands and helped her with household chores. HOUSEHOLDS, FIGHTING FIGHTING BATTLES Nursing homes and other assisted care facilities have also faced the challenge of keeping grandparents connected as many contact visits have been interrupted due to concerns about the spread of viruses. “It was lonely,” says Deb McGlinch, a patient at the Versailles Rehabilitation & Health Center in western Ohio. She was used to visiting her granddaughter Kortaney Cattell (20) often to play card games like Uno with her. She was able to video chat with Kortaney and seven other grandchildren but missed her card games. They recently resumed the friendship contest remotely using a virtual slot machine. McGlinch says, instead of just exchanging small talk over the phone, we can have fun now. One in ten US grandparents now lives in the same household with at least one grandchild. This has long been the practice in some Asian cultures. In Ramnath’s family, his Indian-born maternal grandmother, Saroja Seetharaman, alternates between her three children and her six grandchildren in Dallas, Atlanta, and his home in Columbus. Ramanth, 27, was nervous about getting close to his older grandmother, Vijaya, especially when he has just returned from Washington, where he is a student at Georgetown University Law School. He learns from a distance, but sometimes has to go to school to pick up books. Like grandparents complaining about the time lost with their growing grandchildren, grandchildren can feel bad about missed opportunities with their aging loved ones. Ramanth would have loved to spend time with her over the past year to learn more about the family history. She once met Mohandas K. Gandhi, India’s late-famous leader and nonviolence advocate. She attended a tea from Queen Elizabeth II. And he saw photos of her late husband, a senior Indian naval officer, with the late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. “This is a time when I wish I could talk to her more about her life as she gets older,” says Ramanth, who hopes to have more contact soon after she’s fully vaccinated. “Sometimes it can be kind of sad. You can’t spend that much time with someone even if they live with you. “___ Dan Sewell, the AP’s Cincinnati correspondent, and his wife Vickii have nine grandchildren. Follow him on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell Dan Sewell, The Associated Press