When government announced last month that seniors would not be allowed out of their homes even under a general quarantine, the lolos and lolas rose in anger. Using social media, they (we—count me in, aged 67.67 years old and I did that without a calculator) made it clear that even if the policy had good intentions behind it, it was still a bad move.
Sequester the President and his Cabinet, some gray activists hollered, considering most of them are very senior citizens.
Government blinked and clarified that, no, no, we can still go out to the grocery and drugstore and, if we are still employed, to work.
No exaggeration here, but strict 24/7 home quarantine can be deadly in the way it deprives people of fresh air, sunlight, and exercise, which are all the more important for the elderly. Then there are the practical concerns about seniors being prevented from getting food, medicines, and, we forget for many who are disabled, physical therapy. It’s worse with the poor, who may not have anyone to help them with those needs.
I thought about all this yesterday and today, with a particularly tough schedule that I can proudly boast about as proof that many seniors handle a heavy, if not heavier, workload than many younger people.
Wednesday is my grocery and drugstore day, and I’m going to write some time about why this is important for seniors to have their say here. I’m just glad I can still do these chores myself.
After the grocery and the drugstore, I noticed our neighborhood bank was finally open, so I dropped in to handle some long overdue chores there. Then it was checking on my late parents’ home with a quick swim in their wading pool, doing email in between, and finalizing a PowerPoint for a webinar in the afternoon sponsored by the Inquirer and The Medical City, which went from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. including the pre-webinar briefings. The Zoom fatigue after I tried to shake off by walking the dogs.
Early to bed, I told myself, because I had a Zoom meeting scheduled at 4 a.m. the next day. I woke up 4:10 and rushed to connect to fellow members of a board of directors, all in California and one in Mexico, most of whom were senior citizens themselves but at least they were doing that during the day. I was the only one from the other side of the Pacific, but I’ve always argued the Philippines is part of America (vassal to the north, comrades to the south).
California’s been under lockdown, too, which they call shelter in place, a nicer-sounding term that emphasizes you’re safer at home.
So, this group of seniors—one kept talking about doing his memoirs as a swan song and I said no, your memoirs will be that of a phoenix rising—talked about how we might want to intensify our advocacy for community health, which we’ve been doing for more than 50 years.
David Werner was with us, a biology teacher who first did fieldwork in Mexico and ended up organizing village health worker programs and writing up amazing community health manuals, starting with “Donde No Hay Doctor,” which was translated into many languages—in English as “Where There Is No Doctor” and in Filipino as “Kung Walang Doktor Sa Inyong Lugar.” It was published by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes in 1979 and given out for free. (If any of you have a copy, I’d appreciate it if you could lend it to me to digitize.)
David emphasized community-based rehabilitation, villagers making their own wheelchairs, and the village health workers becoming physical therapists. I visited his program in 1983 in one of the most remote areas in Mexico, and saw for myself what a difference it made to have villages empowered to help themselves.
We shared our experiences with COVID-19, with Trump and Duterte and how the world is forgetting that the response would be so much better if we could just mobilize families and communities.
Our Zoom meeting lasted four hours and convinced me all the more about needing to push for more community mobilization, and to adopt more of a sheltering philosophy in our battle against COVID-19.
OK, after that zoom it was doing this column. Then I’ll prepare my lunch and dinner (I’ve learned to cook modular), read term papers and email, and tonight, do another webinar on homeschooling.
(Something I keep forgetting to announce: If you want some good advice on setting up shelter quarantine places, write to [email protected], who put together some very good guidelines. Nope, he’s not senior yet, but we seniors don’t discriminate about whom we work with.)
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