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What will you do once you’re fully vaccinated? Here’s what some older adults did

I am on day 17 post-second vaccine and feeling cautiously liberated at the age of 81. I am just curious what my contemporaries are doing as we slowly are getting the Monopoly card “getting out of jail free.”


Dear H .N.,

Great you got the vaccine. We may be cautiously liberated but not totally free since we still need to comply with CDC guidelines even those of us who are fully vaccinated. Yet, there is a sense of new freedom. Unfortunately, those living in a senior residence may not experience that feeling so readily.

The vaccine makes us feel safer yet we are not invincible. We still need to be concerned given a new variant which is considered easier to catch, more deadly and is spreading quickly in the U.S.

Yet this is a new time when we once again can hug our children and grandchildren, select our own strawberries and tomatoes, go out for coffee and comfortably visit the beach. It’s a time we can embrace the celebration of Passover and Easter with those also fully vaccinated. The good news is that 46 percent of those 65 years and older have received two doses of the vaccine while 71 percent have received at least one dose according to CDC data. So, we are getting there.

Here is what some older adults in our communities are doing during the first week or two after full vaccination:

A woman age 80 was overwhelmed with her choices. She finally decided to get new lenses at Lens Crafters after interviewing them by phone to review their implemented CDC guidelines. They passed the test. She then went to the bird store to buy a relatively squirrel-proof bird feeder and some birdseed. Since she hadn’t been to Ralph’s in a year, she went there for groceries and slowly strolled up and down each aisle. Enjoying an ice cream cone is on her next “to be accomplished” list.

Another, age 82, said the big difference for her was socializing. She called it partying, sitting for an outdoor lunch with a friend then moving on to dinner with her kids, celebrating her son’s birthday. She said, “It felt so good.”

A married couple, ages 77 and 75 have travel plans to Palm Springs for a change of scenery, to Telluride to visit their children and to an exhibit at LACMA. Add to that, they are enjoying lots of hugs. They are somewhat frustrated that the gym’s pool has not yet opened; they consider this a small frustration.

Then there was more grocery shopping for a couple in their 80’s. The wife noted that shopping at Costco was a joy. She said that “I wasn’t worrying about being six feet away from another human being. We stopped to finally get our glasses adjusted and I picked berries off the shelf like a normal person. Just being there made us happy,” she added. “I feel I have a good portion of my freedom back and haven’t felt that way for a year.” She indicated she will feel even better when her grandchildren will be vaccinated.

An 88-year-old widow just bought a new red car and will be going into the showroom to sign the final papers. “A lot of this is trust.” She added, “I feel less anxious but am not yet ready to go into a restaurant or any place with crowds.”

Another woman in her 70’s, fully vaccinated, went for the first time to the outdoor garden department at Home Depot, got doughnuts at a store and picked out groceries that were not from a computer list. Another indicated she felt empowered just planning a dinner party. She also went into an office building and said, “I was surprised at my reaction; the environment felt so unfamiliar.”

We are ready to feel normal and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Although normal may be redefined. What will not change is our need and our desire for human contact, friends, family, hugs and just being together. As Jennifer Steinhauer wrote in the New York Times on March 22, “we are emerging this spring with the daffodils, tilting (our) faces to the sunlight.”

Thank you H.N. for your good question of curiosity. Enjoy this new time. Stay safe, be well and be 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 Visit Helen at and follow her on


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