Older American Month ends at a National Low Point
I write this blog with a very heavy heart. The recent violent attacks on people going about their daily lives are too much for me to ignore. I tried. I intended to write an upbeat message as we close out Older Americans Month. Keep in mind, this year’s theme is “Age My Way.” A theme intended to encourage all of us to take control and plan for those golden years.
Age My Way?
Age My Way? Say that to the seventy-two-year-old African American woman shopping at Tops in Buffalo. How about the shooter’s grandmother gunned down at home before he left for the local elementary school? What about the man shot in the New York subway by a stranger? None of them are getting to age their own way.
Gun violence doesn’t impact just the three unlucky souls I referenced here. It hurts all of us. Throw a stone in a pond and you get ripples, right? Shoot a gun at one person and the impact cuts through families, friends, communities, countries.
Social Determinants of Health
I am not hyperbolic. One violent incident sets off a chain reaction in our Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). SDOH are the health impacts of where we live, work plan, learn and pray. SDOH includes our transportation, food, housing, education, workplace, and cultural centers that knit us together as a society.
Shoot up a grocery store and it closes, creating a food desert for that low-income community. Shoot up a place of worship and watch attendance drop for subsequent services, breaking down the bonds of the congregation. Shoot up an elementary school as you break the hearts of all children, parents, grandparents, and education professionals who now live in a hyper-vigilance state because of the untreated Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder they are experiencing.
SDOH contributes up to eighty percent of risk of disease and death, life expectancy, healthcare costs, and functional limitations. Communities’ breakdown when public spaces are not safe. People stop gathering, they isolate themselves in an indoor safe space. Public transportation feels too risky, people miss medical appointments, stop going to work, and other activities go undone. Local grocery stores with familiar faces now produce anxiety and flashbacks of the carnage seen on the television. Working parents’ angst over the safety of their children leads to low productivity. Healthcare costs rise as insidious anxiety and depression spreads, and health conditions worsen.
No Inspirational Call to Action, Sorry
Age My Way is about empowerment. I am not feeling this groove. I feel the depths of helplessness and hopelessness with every new ugly, violent event. The days of ‘thoughts and prayers’ as the salve on our wounds no longer works. We have reached the level of insanity where we continue to do the same thing expecting a different result. Here’s the point where I should write some inspiring call to action. I got none. Calling your legislator is just as useless as thoughts and prayers. Gun violence is wounding all of us.