PORTLAND, Maine — This isn’t the way Betsy Steen and her husband wanted to spend their golden years: Hunkered down at home, living with fear and isolation. Steen, 76, and her husband David, 75, both take immuno-suppressant medications, placing them at high risk if they contract the coronavirus. They try to keep positive, but it’s hard to escape the flood of bad news. “It’s just surreal,” the retired teacher said from her Bowdoinham home. “It’s kind of like a dream. Every once in a while, you wake up and say that’s real.” States with older populations carry special worries during the deadly pandemic: Loneliness takes an emotional and physical toll on fragile residents. Delivering food and medicine to the homes of isolated shut-ins presents an enormous challenge. Rural hospitals, meanwhile, worry about overwhelmed emergency rooms if the virus continues to spread. In Maine, behind the idyllic scenes of lighthouses and lobster boats, all of those problems are intensified with the nation’s oldest and most rural population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. “Here’s the thing: You have a lot of folks who are isolated, who cannot get out, who don’t drive. How are they connected? Who’s checking in on them?”


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