Fully Vaccinated and Time to Party: If You Are 70

The Foresters, right, and their friends, the Schwartzes, toasted the 80th birthday of Phyllis, left, and retirement for Sheldon, right.(Cydni Elledge for The New York Times)
[NYTimes.com – March 22, 2021] Bobby Stuckey flipped through receipts this month, surprised to see a huge increase in cocktail sales, the highest in the 17-year history of his restaurant, even though the bar section has been closed. The septuagenarians are back.

“Every night we are seeing another couple or a pair of couples in the dining room, and they feel so much relief,” said Mr. Stuckey, the owner of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colo. “Covid was hard on everybody, but you can’t even think of the emotional toll in this group. They haven’t gone out. They want to have the complete experience. It is just joyful to see them again.”

Older people, who represent the vast majority of Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, are emerging this spring with the daffodils, tilting their faces to the sunlight outdoors. They are filling restaurants, hugging grandchildren and booking flights.

Marcia Bosseler is back to playing Ping-Pong — and beating all the men, she says — at her apartment complex in Coral Gables, Fla.

Randy and Rochelle Forester went out to eat with another couple for the first time in a year, and Ms. Forester celebrated the pleasure of being “out of sweats, to put on some pretty earrings and lipstick and be back in the world a little bit.” Fully vaccinated, Louis Manus Jr., an 82-year-old Navy veteran in Rapid City, S.D., is getting ready for his first vintage car club meeting in a year.

The upside-down world in which older Americans are drinking more martinis inside restaurants at a far greater rate than millennials will be short-lived. It’s a fleeting Covid-era din which the elders celebrate while their younger counterparts lurk in grocery stores in search of leftover shots or rage on social media, envious of those who have received a vaccine. In a few months, all that will most likely be over, and vaccines will be available to all who want them.

Diners at Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colo. “Every night we are seeing another couple or a pair of couples in the dining room, and they feel so much relief,” said Bobby Stuckey, the owner. (Eliza Earle for The New York Times)

For now, about two-thirds of Americans over 65 have started the vaccination process and nearly 38 percent are fully vaccinated, compared with 12 percent of the overall population, giving the rest of the nation a glimpse into the after times.

“I am just enjoying my life,” said Robbie Bell, 75, who recently went out with two friends for a birthday celebration in Miami — one of whom was hospitalized last year with a dangerous case of Covid — and even hit the dance floor.

“This is my just due,” Ms. Bell said. “Seniors gave up more than anybody else.”

Ms. Bosseler, back at the Ping-Pong table, is eager to reestablish friendships. “I missed not shaking a hand, or putting a hand on a shoulder,” she said. (Scott McIntyre for The New York Times)

Mrs. Bosseler, who is 85, is thrilled to go back to live games of Ping-Pong and mahjong at The Palace in Coral Gables.

“This is very exciting for me,” she said in a telephone interview.

She is happiest to get back to “relationship with friends,” she said.

“What was difficult was losing that intimacy of walking together and talking face-to-face. I missed not shaking a hand, or putting a hand on a shoulder.”

Her neighbor Modesto Maidique, who is 80, has tiptoed out into the world, grabbing his sandwich indoors. But his central goal, like many older people, is to see his grandchildren.

“I am about ready to jump in a plane and fly, and the sooner the better,” Mr. Maidique said. He also teaches a course on “lessons in life, love and leadership” at Florida International University in Miami and “dreaded the thought of people being online and my not having the ability to interact with others,” he said.

His tentative plan is to hold a normal class in September.

Other older Americans still in the work force are finding their way back into that world before many of the rest of us, too. Ms. Bell, a real estate broker, spent the last year driving around Miami in a car separate from clients, once giving a tour by speakerphone and pointing out landmarks. The clients would then go inside houses by themselves. “That is how I had to function,” she said. “For the first time last week, someone came who had her shots, too. I picked her up and I did my showings.”

Many of those fully vaccinated — older and younger — are still as cautious , more like those crocuses that bloom in the day only to fold quietly back into their stems at night. “I would say that we are less afraid, but not fear-free,” said John Barkin, 76, who lives with his wife, Chris, 70, in Chestertown, Md. “There are so many stories about mutations, etc., and so many yet-to-be-vaccinated people seem to be acting more and more irresponsibly. Both of us feel that we have invested a year of being careful, so to continue on conservatively seems the way to go.”

Andrea Westberg, 73, sees it through all lenses, having missed out on a customized tour of Italy last summer with her teenage grandchildren. 

At last, she is together with family again.

“I am hopeful for the future but cautious,” she said. “I grieve for those lives lost and hope that science and truth prevail in the years to come.”

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