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Mission Valley seniors share COVID-19 concerns

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POLSON – Montana seniors are at a greater risk for COVID-19, especially those who have underlying health conditions. While the growing precautions and restrictions have had a big impact on daily routines, many seniors are trying to keep their lives and routines as normal as possible. 

“This kind of thing is not new for us old people,” said an 81-year-old shopper who stopped by the store like he normally does early Saturday morning to grab a few things for the week. 

The shopper said the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t his first brush with a major outbreak, travel restrictions, quarantines or even hard economic times. “At our age, we’ve been through the swine flu, polio epidemic and some really bad flu years,” he said. “I see no sense in getting myself all worked up about something I have no control over.” 

Senior Pam Robinson finds herself staying closer to her Polson apartment in recent days. “I have grown a little more anxious about the virus as the days go on,” said Robinson. “I am not really worried about getting sick, it’s more that I am not sure what’s going to happen next.”

Robinson watches Netflix on television, reads books, gets on her computer, makes candles and takes Violet Rose (a 13-year-old corgi mix) out for walks to help pass the time and keep her busy. Robinson says she doesn’t feel isolated and considers herself blessed to have family nearby. She is also grateful for the support of her “tech-savvy next-door neighbor” Laurie Caswell. 

“She is my personal shopper and sometimes helps me out with my computer and TV,” said Robinson. 

Caswell, 68, stressed the importance for seniors to feel connected and look out for one another, especially now. “I enjoy helping my neighbors with tasks like shopping and picking up a prescription for them, so they don’t need to leave the house and risk exposure,” said Caswell.

According to Laura Reynolds of Polson, COVID-19 hasn’t stopped her and her group of friends who would normally go out a few times a month for drinks to socialize. Rather than meeting up at their favorite hangout the group turned this week’s gathering into a virtual get-together. “Since we can’t go out anymore, we all drank together by text,” said Reynolds. “One of my friends said they were sanitizing with vodka. It was absolutely hysterical.”

Reynolds explained that she was not particularly worried about herself as much as she worried for other people in her life during this time. She stays in touch every other day or so with her family and friends by text or on the phone. While Reynolds called the stay-at-home orders “a necessary evil,” she also said her life hasn’t changed much.

“I tend to isolate anyway,”  she said. “I have a lot of computer games, and I am always on the internet playing games like Sudoku and solitaire. If I get extra bored, I take Elvin (a 12-year-old Jack Russell) out for extra-long walks and much needed fresh air.” 

While each senior is dealing with the serious COVID-19 pandemic in their own unique and varied way, one thing remains clear, each day will bring more changes and difficult challenges especially for those in the senior communities.

If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, please visit the Lake County Public Health website at https://lakecountypublichealth.org for up-to-date information and resources. Senior advocacy organizations such as the Lake County Council on Aging and local senior centers also offer specific programs to cope with food and supplies associated with isolation imposed by the virus. For more information, call the Lake County Council on Aging at 406-676-2367; Mission Valley Senior Center at 406-676-2371; the St. Ignatius Senior Center at 406-745-4462; the Polson Senior Center at 406-883-4735; the Tribal Centers at 406-675-2700; the Arlee Senior Center at 406-726-3213; or the Charlo Senior Center at 406-644-2531.

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