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More evidence of COVID-19’s deadly toll on older Americans

One in 100 seniors age 65 and over has died of COVID-19, which is now the third-leading cause of death for this group. Getting vaccinated is as much about our elders as it is about ourselves.

A senior resident of Garden House Apartments in Maywood receives her first vaccination during the Cook County Dept. of Public Health’s launch of its mobile vaccination program in March.
A senior resident of Garden House Apartments in Maywood receives her first vaccination during the Cook County Department of Public Health’s launch of its mobile vaccination program in March.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

The coronavirus has brought the world one grim milestone after another as infections, hospitalizations and deaths repeatedly surge, then decline, then surge anew.

But on Monday, news of another sobering milestone was reported by the New York Times: One in 100 older Americans has now died of COVID-19.

In all, three-fourths of the almost 800,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 are people 65 and over. COVID is now the third-leading cause of death in that age group, behind heart disease and cancer.

There’s a mental health component to this news as well, which is no surprise given the rising numbers of Americans experiencing anxiety and depression because of the pandemic and driving up demand for mental health treatment.

For seniors who opt to be extra-cautious and avoid social gatherings, restaurants and the like for fear of contracting even a mild breakthrough infection, we can easily imagine the isolation and feelings of depression are worse.

As one 84-year-old living in a Chicago high-rise for seniors said, “People are worried right now.”

“If you’ve been inside for a long time, and the only time you talk to somebody is to get your mail or go down to the deli,” the woman told the New York Times, “that is a lot of isolation and loneliness for some people.”

That this pandemic has been especially deadly for those 65 and over is not news. From the beginning, statistics have shown that cases of serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths are much more likely among the older population. Which is why older Americans rightly were given high priority for the shots as the vaccine rollout began last December — and since then, 95% of Americans 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. In Illinois, the number is 91%, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.

Chicago, however, has catching up to do: 79% of Chicagoans 65 and over have gotten one vaccine dose, city data show.

Vaccination rates are lower for other adults and young people, although inching up. We hope this latest news about our country’s seniors is another wake-up call to those among us who aren’t yet vaccinated.

Getting the shot is not just about our own lives.

It’s also about preserving the lives of our older loved ones and neighbors.

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