If the pandemic has left you feeling vulnerable, here’s what you can do
Q. I am 68 and recently retired from a college administrative job and have been divorced for about two years after a 35-year marriage. Fortunately, I have received my two vaccines. I live alone in an apartment and am just coming out of pandemic restrictions. I am feeling very vulnerable which is relatively new for me. How can I overcome feelings of uneasiness and vulnerability? Many thanks. A.B.
A. Dear A.B.
You are not alone. There are good reasons to feel vulnerable. Our life experiences, knowledge and insight make us more aware of what can go wrong at our lifestage even with good planning. Awareness is a strength and is a good beginning to address an issue.
David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times talked about vulnerability in his April 2, 2021, column. He wrote, “The cumulative effect of a year of repetition, isolation and stress has induced a lassitude – a settling into the familiar with feelings of vulnerability. He notes that fortunately personality traits are rather stable and can change gradually. When they do change in later life, “research indicates it is for the better as people become more calm, self-confident and socially sensitive as they mature” he noted.
Here are a few suggestions to feel a bit more safe and secure.
Create a safe living environment: Living alone in later life can create its own anxieties. Aside from possibly feeling lonely, there are safety concerns that are ageless.
Consider the following tips. Since we need more light as we get older, make use of the free stuff – sunlight. Open curtains and pull up the shades. Keep stairways well-lit as well as walkways and entrances. If they aren’t, ask your landlord to brighten up the passageways. At night, make sure you have a nightlight in case you are up at 3:00 a.m. Clear your doorways, floors and walkways. Check that you don’t have electric cords in your walking path. And then there’s the bathroom. Use a tub mat to avoid slipping; install grab bars. Note that most hotels have them in their bathrooms.
Create an emotionally safe environment: This may be a little more difficult. Here we are talking about relationships; people who share your interests, whom you care about and who care about you. Sharing common interests often creates a foundation for relationships. A beginning point is to determine what you love to do. If you don’t know, give yourself permission to engage in a variety of activities. Consider it an internship. Here are several examples that provide connection and meaning as well as the opportunity to meet others.
Let’s start with learning opportunities. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) in the South Bay is associated with Omnilore, an adult education program within California State University Dominguez Hills. It’s a learning community of about 300 older adults who organize study sessions that are planned and directed by members. There are no tests or grades. It’s open to all ages 50 years and older. See www.omnilore.org. UCLA and California State University Fullerton also are Osher centers. For the time being, their programs are virtual.
Explore new parts of the outdoors with others. In the South Bay, the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy sponsors virtual guided tours. The virtual experience could be a good introduction to discovering new aspects of beautiful Southern California. Email email@example.com to make a reservation or for more information call (310) 541-7613. The Sierra Club has chapters both in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Although to date, outdoor activities have been temporarily suspended. Check out their range of offerings.
Become part of a community: Participate in a faith-based organization, a book club, an alumni association or a cause such as the environment, social justice or climate change. Become part of the Village, a non-profit membership organization designed to help mid-life and older adults remain in their own homes and stay connected to their communities. The Village, part of a national movement, offers services, engaging activities and opportunities to meet wonderful people. Here are a few contacts: South Bay Village serving the Torrance area at www.sbvill.org, Palos Verdes Peninsula Village at www.peninsulavillage.net and the Westside Pacific Village at www.thewpv.org. serving Westchester, Culver City, Mar Vista and many adjacent areas. Check the Village to Village Network to find out there is one in your community. See www.vtvnetwork.org.
Thank you, A.B. for your good question. The vulnerability you currently feel may move to feelings of calm and self-confidence as you explore and engage in some new opportunities. Enjoy the journey and stay safe, be well and kind to yourself and others.
Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging, employment and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Helendenn@gmail.com. Visit Helen at HelenMdennis.com and follow her on facebook.com/SuccessfulagingCommunity