A group of longterm-care residents at a nursing home in Greeley, Colorado, protested outside their residence last week in opposition to lingering state lockdown restrictions that keep them from having physical contact with their loved ones.
Approximately 20 residents, many in wheelchairs, gathered outside Fairacres Manor on Thursday, according to CBS4 Denver. Some of the handwritten signs they held read, “Prisoners in our own home” and “Give us freedom.”
One resident’s sign stated simply that she would rather die from COVID-19 than loneliness.
The Fairacres Resident Council organized the event, according to CBS4. Resident Council President Sharon Peterson told the outlet, “We used to be lucky here at Fairacres to show each other what we mean to one another and we cannot do that anymore. Fairacres follows the rules and, with that, we think they would keep us safe while being able to be with our families again.”
“We did this because one thing we have to look forward to is a simple hug,” Peterson added. “It gives us meaning.”
Ben Gonzales, an assistant administrator at Fairacres Manor, explained to CBS4 that while residents are allowed visitors, they are not permitted to have physical contact and must maintain a six-foot distance.
“They want to be able to hug their grandchildren, they want to be able to hold the hands of their loved ones,” Gonzales said.
A day after the protest, Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement:
We absolutely understand how difficult it has been for residents of residential care facilities and their families. Social interaction is essential to physical and mental health, and so we have provided guidance to residential care facilities that allows for that interaction while also keeping residents safe from COVID-19. Restrictions have been in place previously, but residents are now able to visit loved ones both indoors and outdoors. In addition, we are doing everything possible to help long-term care facilities mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by working directly with facilities on proper infection control practices that have been proven to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Even before the COVID-19 lockdowns, loneliness has been increasing among older Americans in recent years. According to a 2018 AARP survey entitled “Loneliness and Social Connections: A National Survey of Adults 45 and Older,” about one-third of the more than 3,000 midlife and older Americans surveyed reported feeling lonely.
Older people are not the only ones reporting mental anguish amid the lingering lockdowns. Members of Generation Z, which was already “the loneliest generation,” according to a 2018 Cigna study, have reported staggering rates of suicidal ideation in recent months. According to a CDC survey done during the summer, more than a quarter of those surveyed between the ages of 18-24 had “seriously considered” killing themselves during a 30-day period.