Stories abound with much older Americans dealing with the pandemic with the kind of resilience and agility my mother showed during the storm. My father’s cultural calendar far surpasses mine with Zoom lectures ranging from the cast of the Netflix miniseries “Unorthodox” to human rights activist Nathan Sharansky, whom he examines during the Silver Sneakers exercise hours, which are also distributed by various sites. to the comfort of his living room.
Unlike teenagers and 20-year-olds, who have grown up with instant gratification of social media likes, those 65 and older are more experienced at waiting and can tolerate patience in a way that is difficult for us who ended this pandemic months ago.
The 25 open-ended aging surveys were distributed to social and housing facilities that serve those aged 65 and over and were shared electronically with friends and family members of survey participants across the country to capture a range of elders̵
Research also notes that most people around the world become happier with age, perhaps because they accept the inevitable changes that occur over time and develop appreciation for the good that remains in their lives.
When Patrick Kleiber, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia, and colleagues collected daily studies from people between the ages of 18 and 91 during the pandemic, they found that older generations reported coping with covid-19 stress. the disease caused by the new coronavirus more effectively than those who are younger.
Other reports reveal similar data, including a study by investment firm Edward Jones and the Age Wave think tank, which looked at 9,000 people from five generations. Older study participants reported the highest rate of coping very well with covid-19.
This discrepancy can be explained in part by adults, who often have fewer conflicts between work and family than those with younger children. But others realize that life in later years gives the prospect that difficult times will eventually pass and that there is experience to be used to remain resilient in times of difficulty and challenge.
My Uncle Lou, for example, who has just turned 90, describes his survival in the Korean War at 22 as a “defining moment” that taught him to be “grateful” to be alive; he still remembers his four brothers serving in World War II, including one who was taken prisoner of war. Lou spent time during the pandemic listening to music and working on his autobiography. He commented: “We are doing well [the pandemic] with a positive attitude “.
Noting that many older people are experiencing this pandemic does not mean minimizing the serious problems that affect them. More than 48,000 residents of nursing homes have died from covid-19, and blacks and other people of color have been disproportionately affected. Countless nursing homes still do not have enough tests and personal protective equipment needed to ensure the safety of employees and residents.
During the pandemic, isolation for those in nursing homes increased, as did strict restrictions on visits with family members and a general fear of exposure to the virus, leading to strict self-care on the part of some residents who are afraid to enter contact with asymptomatic carriers.
But against the background of these alarming trends, positive developments have emerged.
Quarantine during a pandemic has caused people to experience what many older people experience every day, spending considerable time at home without a specific schedule, providing a structure for the days and a specific pace. Because everyone has less social interaction outside the house when quarantined, families spend more time using technology to connect with relatives.
For these elderly people without available family members, the organizations have developed innovative projects to expand the social interaction of older adults. The non-profit group TimeSlips initiated Milwaukee Tele-Stories, for example, pairing local artists with 10 “insufficiently connected” elders for a weekly talk and creative engagement that would end with artists making a “heritage gift” for everyone.
TimeSlips founder and CEO Ann Basting also launched a “creative care” postcard project with care that asked for personal, invigorating mail to be sent to their residents. Basting says FaceTime calls can be great, but a postcard can be a little breath of joy over and over again. All day.”
As we all sail into the unknown, there is some emerging evidence that exposure to “age diversity” contributes to longevity. I think about it now more than ever when I arrive at the Y pool of water tai chi with a group between generations that ranges from 15 to 90. One of our movements is called “graceful acceptance.” Many older people here and there have already mastered this eternal ideal.
Elin Lem is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Wokesha.