By Susan Harris Huether
Kirkland Senior Council
Isolation. The coronavirus pandemic has taught us all about isolation. But most of us are lucky: we share our isolation with one or more family members or roommates. This gives us someone to talk to, laugh with and feel safe with.
However, experts say this pandemic has impacted our sense of security.
While this may be true for many Kirkland residents, for people who live alone and are truly isolated, I believe this would be terrifying. In our town, there are about 8,100 people who live alone. Of those, 2,544 are seniors age 60 and older. Certainly, many of these people have family, friends or neighbors who watch out for them, check to make sure they are safe and have what they need.
They are the lucky ones.
For those who live alone and have no family or friends in the area, isolation and social distancing can be tough. Sure, they can talk on the phone, or meet online, but it is not the same as someone asking, “What can I do to help?”
When this pandemic is over (and we all know it will end), each of us needs to look at our world a little differently. What can we do, in the short or long term, to prepare for another emergency? How can we, as neighbors, help each other?
We are all in this together.
Map Your Neighborhood is the best place to start and the city of Kirkland will be able to help you and your neighbors do this. By knowing who your neighbors are and how to contact them, and being aware of which neighbors may need extra help in an emergency, you can be prepared to respond together as a community.
The city emphasizes that after a major earthquake or other destructive event, the emergency responders may not be able to quickly reach everyone who needs help. It is up to each of us to help each other.
But to do that, you must know who your neighbors are. Mapping your neighborhood gives you that knowledge. Mapping your neighborhood and meeting your neighbors is important, whether you live in an apartment high-rise or a stand-alone home. It is the first step to getting to know each other, getting to know each other’s skills and needs in case there is an emergency.
When we can return to “getting out and about,” make a plan and get started on your “get to know your neighbors” campaign. Host a potluck block party or ice cream social. Not everyone will come but it will be a great start. Contact the city of Kirkland office of emergency management at KirklandEM@Kirklandwa.gov or 425-587-3691. The department has many materials that will help you and your neighbors understand the importance of this effort for everyone’s safety.
As someone who lives in a “mapped” neighborhood, I can tell you it works. We check on each other frequently during this pandemic, by email or text. Neighbors are concerned about neighbors. Isolation does not have to mean that people are alone.
Because we are all in this together.
For more information, visit www.kirklandwa.gov/myn.
Coming of Age…Again is edited by the Kirkland Senior Council, a group the city of Kirkland created in 2001 to advocate for older adults in our community. The council is made up of people living or working in Kirkland who want to improve and maintain the quality of life for people in Kirkland as they grow older. Membership opens in the fall.