The COVID-19 pandemic is just over a year old, and all of us are tired of the restrictions, the inconveniences, the grief and hardships brought on by this virus. This is not an abstraction; it has meant Christmas without family, weddings and birthdays not celebrated, travel postponed and friends who may never be seen again. Like yours, the OurSeniors.net family has been affected—we have made sacrifices and curtailed some activities like the popular Brunch and Learn programs we have sponsored for years. Take this opportunity to check out our next virtual program (March 26, 11 AM) by clicking on Talking Books for Persons with Disabilities.

It is too soon to say that the pandemic is ending, but there are hopeful signs. America’s vaccine program is gathering speed, and this is especially important for seniors, the group most at risk from Covid-19 infection. If you have any doubt about taking this vaccine, please read our past article, “What You Should Know about COVID-19 Vaccines.” Listen to your doctor’s advice! He or she will almost certainly tell you to protect yourself and loved ones by getting the vaccine.

Political leaders and public health officers are now cautiously optimistic that we can return to something like near-normal sometime this year, possibly by summer. But what does this mean? What can people, especially seniors, look forward to in the post-pandemic world?

It is not certain how this will affect seniors, and in many cases, these will be individual decisions. For example, most seniors enjoy the experience of occasionally dining out, an activity that has been sharply limited by fear of COVID-19. The state of Florida has lifted all restrictions on restaurants and bars, so seniors are technically free to return to the “good old days.” However, the CDC has cautioned that eating indoors in a full-capacity restaurant remains a high-risk activity.

Logic tells us that being immunized will make this much safer, another good reason to do so ASAP. However, risk-tolerance is going to vary widely among seniors, and this will remain an individual decision. When considering opportunities to meet with family or old friends in any public gathering, there will be several things to keep in mind.

First, do not go if you are sick, even with a mild cold or hay fever. Your sneezing and coughing are going to make many people uncomfortable, even if you are not infected. In this near-normal world, you might want to check out restaurants or public places before going. How are tables spaced, is outdoor dining available, does the staff continue to wear face masks, what will the crowd density be? Basic internet skills, the subject of a coming OurSeniors.net article, will give you some pointers on using websites to get this information.

The first priority for many seniors will be visiting family or friends. If you feel safe in flying, consider booking reservations now. Airlines have seen a sharp increase in future bookings and there is a huge pent-up demand for leisure travel. Florida is a prime market for airline travel, so it may be more difficult for seniors to travel into and out of our state; you may want to book ahead, even into the 2021 holiday season.

Perhaps an even greater need is to catch up on routine health care procedures and checkups. Annual doctor and dentist visits have been put on hold in many cases and right now is a good time to start rescheduling. Some offices have begun to conduct routine doctor interactions by Zoom or other teleconferencing means, and they may want to continue this for some time. If this fills your needs, it may be a convenient new innovation. If not, now is the time to look for alternatives.

Entertainment venues have been among the hardest hit victims of COVID. It is possible that high-density gatherings as in theatres, sports events and concerts will be limited for some time. This just depends on future developments and on the willingness of each person to accept risk. It seems likely that many theatres or entertainment venues will not reopen, or will do so on a limited basis. If you have not already done so, check out the growing number of entertainment choices available by streaming. Hulu, Disney, ESPN, Vudu, Prime Video and other choices are making it possible to see a huge variety of entertainment products, including first-run movies and live sports events, at home. In the post-pandemic world, going to the game or going to the movies may become a far less common activity.

The ways in which we interact with others may change for a long time. Things like friendly handshakes, common use water fountains, common communion vessels in church or just hugging may be gone or much changed. All of these “maybe changes” have a common thread: how safe you feel in the coming post-pandemic world should hinge largely on your immunity status. If you have been immunized or had the natural disease, you are at far lower risk, especially if you are in the company of like people.

All people, but especially seniors, should get the maximum amount of joy and satisfaction out of each day. COVID-19 has made this impossible, taking away the joy of family, friends and normal social functions. Many of these activities will not come again. Time is one resource we cannot replace, and COVID has robbed many seniors of an entire year. Do not allow fear of this virus to control the rest of your life. Begin now to plan for a “coming out” of sensible activity. Get a good hold on your own tolerance for risk and measure this against the lost opportunities that go by every day.

Stay in close touch with family, friends and loved ones; consider carefully the chance to have renewed contact using safe measures. Please keep up with our family as well by visiting the OurSeniors.net website as well as our Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.