For many Americans, the novel coronavirus pandemic has generated illness-related fears that have little precedent in our lifetimes.
But 60 million Americans over the age of 70 have seen this horror show before: the polio scourge that ravaged the world’s young from roughly 1916 until Jonas Salk’s vaccination arrived in 1955.
Similarities between the epidemics that now bookend the lives of these seniors are many. Fear of an unseen enemy. Quarantined families. Social distancing. But one twist stands out.
“Today in a way is a reverse, because back then our parents were so worried for us kids and now it’s my kids who are so worried about me,” says Sue Gray, 84, who, because of COVID-19’s often deadly impact on seniors, now keeps her distance from Chicago neighbors during strolls in the park.
“But absolutely, when coronavirus hit, the first thing I thought of were those summers in the 1940s,