Celebrating life in isolation

Birthdays during the pandemic have certainly changed.

Take, for example, a first birthday, when a child’s parents reflect on how quickly the year has gone. One-year-olds have achieved so much in their first year. They have developed their own personality and can really enjoy the excitement of a party just for them.

My great-nephew, Wyatt, turned 1 this past week.

His parents, grandparents and great-grandmother held a socially distanced outdoor party for him. Neighbors and friends drove up, stayed in their cars to drop off gifts and send well-wishes, and were treated to a to-go lunch including a hot dog, bag of chips, soda and birthday cake.

Wyatt will never know his birthday celebration was different than it might have been pre-pandemic. But most of us know that this year’s birthday will likely be different from those in the past.

Last week was also my friend Adrienne’s 77th birthday. Normally we’d celebrate at a restaurant with cocktails, dinner and conversation. This year, we decided to get together over a socially distanced cocktail in my backyard but had to reschedule when the 6 p.m. curfew was imposed in L.A. County.

People all over the world attach a certain magic to their birthday. There’s nothing quite so touching as a birthday party, an event specifically designed to celebrate us and a time for our friends and family to show their affection.

Birthday celebrations have become institutionalized in our society. Many of us have been to a restaurant where they deliver a small dessert and sing to someone celebrating a birthday. Birthdays just don’t feel the same without a commemoration of sorts.

Customarily, birthdays include a party with friends and family. The pandemic, however, has upended traditional celebrations due to the need for social distancing, the difficulty of traveling to see one another and the hard realities of putting loved ones at risk.

While some, like Wyatt’s parents, have become creative, what can we do for older adults in our community who are having a birthday and are not ready or able to leave their homes to celebrate with family and friends?

Social connection is very important for older adults. As Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin said recently on an interview with KCLU, “We have to show our seniors some love.”

Each year of life is a gift to be celebrated, especially at this time. So, enter the newest program from Senior Concerns—a monthly Birthday Party over Zoom.

Parties will take place at 2 p.m. the third Thursday of the month, as follows: June 18, July 16, Aug. 20, Sept. 17, Oct. 15, Nov. 19 and Dec. 17.

Everyone 65 and older is invited, along with a loved one, if desired. Participants may join whether it is their birthday or not, but be sure to let Senior Concerns know if your birthday is in June so you can be celebrated at this month’s party.

The party is free to join. To register, send an email to info@seniorconcerns.org or call (805) 497-0189. A week before the event, registrants will be sent the Zoom link along with instructions to prepare.

Surprises are in store, so don’t be shy, come join the party!

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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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