July 24, 2020

Being older has its advantages

No doubt about it: these are stressful times. How we manage is challenging and can be different based on age.

Lots of people worry about how older people are faring in the pandemic, with concerns about isolation, loneliness, and fear of getting the disease. Interestingly, two studies show that is the wrong assumption. Old folks are doing ok. A study from the University of British Columbia shows that older people are more resilient, with better coping skills than young adults. They responded better to the pandemic than younger and middle aged people. Another study in the US from the University of Georgia, show older adults feel stress COVID-19 and the social isolation, but have seen worse and are using other forms of communication to keep in touch. Younger people are feeling more stress and isolation and can benefit from more contact with others, compared with the older people. It is not what I expected, until I stop and think about it. Then I realize that those confirm my observations as well.

We know people who feel lonely and are isolated, we also know people who have a lot of fear about what is going on. Fear of getting the virus, fear of giving the virus to someone else, fear of losing their job or of not being able to find a new one, fear of change, fear of being alone, and so much more. Too often we listen and then dismiss their concerns and fears with something called “Dismissive Positivity”. I like this article about how to show empathy without dismissing someone’s fears. Actually it has very good advice for many conversations, not just about COVID-19. Most often, people want to be heard, rather than fixed. Listening is more powerful than problem solving. Unless they ask, of course.

But all of these things remind me that we need each other. Even if we are not physically together, we can talk on the phone, message, do a video call or virtual meeting with friends. One of my favorite ways to feel connected is to listen to the “Quarantine Happy Hour” on Facebook. A nightly performance, wonderful music, a wide variety of old time musicians. The world is a better place when I remember to log on.

One side note: a warning study from Switzerland that showed that everyone that wore a face shield but no mask got COVID-19 in one outbreak. Everyone that wore a mask stayed safe. Wear a mask, if you want to protect your eyes, then the face shield might help, but never wear it alone.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, call your younger friends.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.