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Guest Opinion | Akila Gibbs: Older Adults Are at Serious Risk of COVID

Published on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 | 6:16 pm
Akila Gibbs

I was saddened to learn that Gen. Colin Powell has died of complications related to COVID-19. Unfortunately, even though he had been fully vaccinated, he ticked two of the biggest boxes indicating that adults 65 and older are at greater risk of contracting or dying of the virus than any other population group. One indicator was that he was 82 years of age and the other was that he had recently been treated for cancer. These two factors were a deadly combination.

Older adults who have certain medical conditions – especially heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and cancer – that automatically compromise their immune systems are just as vulnerable.

Add to this the fact that older adults who live in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living centers and independent living complexes are at even higher risk of contracting or dying of COVID, so it is critically important that anyone who visits them is fully vaccinated and wears a mask.

Although there has been tremendous outreach nationwide about the risks of COVID in older adults, there is still a troubling amount of people who remain unaware, obstinate or in denial about these very real perils.

This is why the Pasadena Senior Center continues to remind members as well as the greater community about the untenable relationship among COVID, the related Delta variant and older adults, and we continue to host occasional workshops and other events to maintain a progressive flow of information.

These workshops and other activities are not only for older adults; they are for anyone of any age who is a caregiver to an older adult, has regular contact with older family members or has other ongoing experiences in the presence of family members, friends and neighbors who are 65 and older.

For example, I want to invite everyone of every age to participate in a free discussion with two medical experts who will provide the most recent updates about COVID and the Delta variant and answer everyone’s questions Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 2 p.m. via Zoom. To register, simply visit and click on Events, Clubs and Lectures, then Online Events or call 626-795-4331.

Hosted by the Pasadena Senior Center with the title “What’s My Risk? Navigating the Current COVID Landscape,” the free Zoom event will be moderated by Dr. Kimberly Shriner, an expert in infectious diseases at Huntington Hospital, and Dr. Laura Mosqueda, dean of the Keck School of Medicine at USC and a widely respected authority on the care of older adults who have medical conditions or disabilities.

It is my greatest wish that older adults, and the entire population as well, will take COVID-19, the Delta variant and any other variants that may be discovered in the future very seriously. The level of purposeful misinformation by individuals, websites and other seriously unreliable sources is mind-boggling.

If you are confused about anything related to older adults and COVID, believe me: You are not alone. The single most important thing you can do to stay informed is to check with proven and reliable sources, such as, and

Please get fully vaccinated if you have not already done so. Don’t put yourself in the category of anti-vaxxers who are placing older adults and others throughout the world at risk and slowing down or completely preventing the eradication of this potentially deadly condition.

There is no other solution. Please be smart about COVID and do everything possible to keep yourself and the older adults in your life safe.

Akila Gibbs is the executive director of the Pasadena Senior Center. 

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