Aging is a gradual process of change that arms us with tools adapted to mitigating personal and external transformation. Covid-19 is causing us to open that toolbox, examine the contents, and learn their uses. Across America, as individuals and families are faced with disrupted community, older Americans are sharing their experience to provide balance and support. You've read about retired physicians and health care professionals coming forward to help our strained hospital system. You've probably also seen 79 year old Dr Fauci calmly steadying the shaky national response. Though initially fixated on preserving economic health above all else even 73 year old Donald Trump pivoted to face the crisis. His acceptance made it possible for most gubernatorial followers to initiate important, life saving preventative action for a time. In this blog I wonder how the contents of our toolboxes could help us stand strong against Covid-19.
Caution was in my toolbox. Is it in yours? This sturdy tool is well equipped to fight Corona virus by helping us protect ourselves and others. While the caution cultivated by aging can create characteristics that aren't useful, such as inflexibility, its value increases in times of crisis. Your life experience will determine how you use the tool of caution. Maybe you disinfect everything you bring in from the store, perhaps, if you're in a "stay home" state, you order everything in and don't leave the house at all or maybe, as Dr Gregory Jantz told ABC news in mid March, you want to continue living your life "within reason." Regardless how you exercise caution I hope you are well and adapting to ongoing information about the virus.
After 60 we gain a collection of experiential insights. These fine tools help us to understand the fragility of life. Perhaps they guide us to urge members in our social circle to practice Corona virus safety. Maybe they help us to know that social distancing doesn't mean we don't trust each other it means that we're trusting friends, relatives, and community members working together to defeat this insidious virus. Maybe you've witnessed the power of unity and now urge collaboration in fighting this pandemic that spreads through unsuspected surface contamination, droplets in the air, and asymptomatic contacts. Maybe your insight helps you to see that this is a temporary situation and therefor instills patience. Maybe it shows you that caring for others ultimately makes your life safer and more secure. Does it help you find empathy for the thousands of people whose lives have been shattered by sudden loss? Are you guided by a faith that informs you now? Speaking about spiritual holiday and celebrations during Covid-19 Reverend Jennifer Bailey, founder of FaithMattersNetwork told Sanja Gupta, "The first thing we should do is acknowledge and lament that we can't be together..." Speaking on "Stay at Home" orders Associate Pastor Devon Earle told The Daily Signal, "My advice is to embrace this gift of time many of us have been given." Rabbi Potasnik told MSNBC news, "We can be many faiths ...but we are one family and I think when this is over there's going to be a recognition that we need each other, face to face." How is your insight contributing to your actions and attitudes during the pandemic?
Resolve may be in your tool box. Age can show us the importance of standing up for our beliefs. Maybe it teaches us how to convert our experience, painful though it sometimes is, into constructive action like Leilani Jordon's mother who harnessed sorrow and grief over her daughter's death to speak out on the importance of protecting essential workers who risk their lives for us during this tragic time. Or like Joan Baez, below, who dusted off her vocals at the age of 79 to speak out on today's politics and send hope to heroes on the front line of corona virus defense.
We can all help essential workers by wearing a mask in public and paying using a contactless transaction or by debit or credit so clerks don't need to touch cash. While Covid-19 has turned normalcy upside down for everyone it's having vastly different impacts on the population based on race, income, and vocation. Some of us will resolve to address the weaknesses in society that we see so clearly now.
Stability is a powerful tool against Covid-19. As family members may become unemployed and need to return home our stability is there for them. Stability is a supportive foundation helping us weather financial and emotional transitions. Having resources and a place of our own affords greater balance and the ability to extend generosity. Hopefully, you, reader, experience stability. A recent Pew survey confirmed that older Americans were more likely to weather economic disruption than younger groups. Importantly though Covid-19 is exposing the instability of many older Americans. 32% of respondents over 60 years of age were concerned about financial impacts from the virus and those 50+ worried the most of all age groups about the combined health and financial risk.
Perhaps your life experience has taught you to be discerning and therefore more trusting of people you deem safe. Trust and discernment are tools we're going to need after the pandemic because rebounding from the Covid-19 transition will require all of us to work together. An April 2020 Pew survey revealed that age, education and class are the factors that inform our levels of trust in others. In general, those respondents over 50 were by far more trusting of others than any other age group and 65+ had the highest level of belief that people try to be fair, try to be helpful and are deserving of our trust. The survey also detected that those among us that were less apt to trust others experienced higher degrees of depression and loneliness. If you're feeling depressed and lonely now you're not alone. Social distancing, uncertainty, and "stay at home" orders are challenging. That's why there are resources to help you pull through. Please, if you or someone you know has mental health problems connect with 211 for guidance to your local helping organizations or dial the Disaster Distress Helpline. If you're experiencing domestic violence please turn to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224) or text LOVEIS to 22522.
I hope you're discovering and using the tools in your toolbox. Age may leave us more vulnerable to disease yet insights, resources and experience give us strength to balance and support our disrupted families, friends and communities. Whatever tools you've found, wherever you are in life may you and your family be safe and healthy. May our country know peace and prosperity once more.
Update: June 11 2020 Interview with Jacques Attali, French theorist and political advisor, on NHK World Newsline. His view on the Corona Virus predicts profound change in society.
Update August 2020 It may come as no surprise to youthat Older Americans are adjusting better to COVID than younger generations according to this study.
10/02/20 New studies show that adults over 70 cope better with stress and therefor are weathering covid pressures better than younger people.
Melissa Etheridge didn't lose her son to covid. He died of opiate addiction but her first home concert after the fact will resonate with anyone whose loved one has died during the past year. 59 year old Etheridge turned to her strength of music to heal her loss and in hopes of bringing healing to others who are grieving.
A new PEW survey finds that older Americans turned to and strengthened spiritual faith during the Pandemic.