Throughout the U.S. lockdown I've been saying to friends (and may have mentioned in these pages), that staying home is more tolerable for old folks than younger ones.
Now, along comes John Leland, one of the finest reporters and writers at The New York Times, to back me up.
Noting that “People age 70 and up account for two-thirds of all coronavirus deaths in New York, though they make up less than 10 percent of the population,” he continues,
'Yet many New Yorkers in this age group are thriving during this catastrophe — skilled at being alone, not fearful about their career prospects, emotionally more experienced at managing the great disruption of everyday life that is affecting everyone.”
That's pretty much what I was thinking and it's nice to have confirmation from another source, especially one I respect so much. Unlike me, however, Leland spoke with half a dozen old people in New York who are making good use of their at-home solitude. A sampling:
“'I'm fine,' [Janet] Wasserman said the other day, taking a break from her research and twice-daily walks with her dog. 'I’m not complaining. In 85 years I’ve seen just about everything that can happen on this planet.
“'If you haven’t lived as long as I have you might think this was the worst thing that ever happened. But people who know history know the difference.'”
Ninety-nine-year-old Sterling Lord is eager to start a new literary agency from his home but frustrated that he can't hire assistants during lockdown:
“'Am I nervous about the virus?' he said. 'Yes. But not that nervous...I have not been out of the house at all since this thing began. It’s very little change. With my work, it’s very easy for me to go the whole day without going outside.'”
In January, 89-year-old Gordon Rogoff lost his husband to Parkinson's disease. He told Leland,
“'Those of us who are older are singled out for a form of house arrest. I like it, actually. I’m recovering some sense of space and time that’s been lost in the hectic arrangements in which we live on a daily basis.
“'I hadn’t realized how deeply immersed in the bustle of contemporary life I have been. One musician, for example, said to me, This is the sabbatical I’ve longed to have. I can see the point, I really can.'”
Leland tell us that despite the grim statistics of nursing home deaths and frightened, isolated elders, the old ones “offer a counternarrative of resourcefulness and perseverance.” As Gary M. Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center and professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told Leland,
“'The reality is that older adults as a group have a positivity bias,' or tendency to see the good side of situations...
“'Their pessimism and anxiety tend to abate with age. They’re no longer striving for material achievements, so what matters to them now is what’s emotionally satisfying. They’re more likely to say, I’ve been through this before.'”
Well, none of us has been through a pandemic before but I have noticed in recent years that I don't get as disturbed by bad news as when I was younger. I suppose it helps, in this virus circumstance, to be a homebody like me.
What about you?