WASHINGTON, DC, Jan 27 – They said we old-timers are particularly susceptible to the mental and social rigors of COVID isolation. But they didn’t take into consideration that the motto of America’s seniors is non-desperado. For our younger readers, non-desperado is Latin for “we do not despair.”
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA, “Older adults tend to have lower stress reactivity, and in general, better emotional regulation and well-being than younger adults, but given the scale and magnitude of the pandemic, there was concern about a mental health crisis among older adults. The concern pertained to older adults both at home and in residential care facilities, where contact with friends, family, and caregivers became limited. The early data suggest a much more nuanced picture. The Viewpoint summarizes evidence suggesting that counter to expectation, older adults as a group may be more resilient to the anxiety, depression, and stress-related mental health disorders characteristic of younger populations during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately eight months into the pandemic, multiple studies have indicated that older adults may be less negatively affected by mental health outcomes than other age groups.”
JAMA cites a study that showed that participants 65 years old or older reported a lot less anxiety, depression, and trauma than the 18 to 24-year-old participants. In other words, the older you are, the more resilient you are when it comes to emotional distress.
Perhaps, it’s because we’ve had a lifetime of experience dealing with adversities. It’s made us tough and resistant. We’ve lived through good times and bad, and it has given us the ability to cope.
As the Psychiatric Times put it: “Senior citizens sit at the center of life’s oldest paradox. For me, the closer they come to death, the more their emotional well-being seems to increase. After a lifetime of losing loved ones, suffering defeats, and experiencing physical decline, older adults still manage to take life’s punches in stride. In fact, many report they are happier and more content than younger people. Resilience with aging is what gives seniors an edge. The wisdom of their experience preserves their ability to adapt and react to the changes around them.”
Resilience doesn’t mean that you don’t get stressed; it means that you have learned to adapt rather than give in.
Indeed, researchers are telling us that although the older you are, the more physically susceptible you might be to the virus, but a lifetime of experience has made you more psychologically resilient to the solitary protocols of the pandemic. Dr. Bri Carpenter, Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences at Case Western Reserve University at Washington University in St. Louis, says that you don’t hear much about this “because the pandemic narrative reinforces stereotypes of older adults as frail, disabled and dependent.”
Kira M. Newman writes for the Greater Good Science Center’s websites, and in a recent article, she explained that perhaps there are “Two Reasons Why Older People Fared Better During the Pandemic.” In it, she tells us that these two reasons are the meaning of life and the forgiveness of the situation.
She cites a study that shows those of us over 65 “reported a greater sense of meaning in life than those under 65. And the eater their sense of meaning, the more optimistic and the less distressed and hopeless they felt … On the flip side, they were less likely to be searching for meaning in their lives—but that’s actually a good thing. Older people who are searching for meaning tend to have worse well-being, presumably because we expect ourselves to have figured out the meaning and purpose of our lives by some age.”
As for the forgiveness part, “While we typically think of forgiveness as something you offer to a person, we can also adopt a forgiving attitude toward hardships that we encounter, like natural disasters or illnesses. This attitude involves letting go of and making peace with difficult situations in life … In this study, the more forgiving of the situation older people were, the better their mental health: less distress and hopelessness, more optimism. In the stud, the older adults were more forgiving as a group, and so they reaped the benefits.”
What makes seniors resilient? Newman attr utes it to experience. The older you are, the more problems and difficulties you’ve experienced, and in order to deal with them, you had to manage them and learn to take a tolerant attitude toward them.
In other words, most seniors have been toughened by the “curve balls” that life has thrown at us as we age, and it’s made us resilient and stronger than the youngsters who have yet to live in difficult times. – times such as the one we are in now. All the bad things that have happened to us over the decades of our lives on earth have made us more able to cope with and manage our distressful moments. They have also taught us to adapt to the changes in our lifestyles, changes that are unbearably inconvenient or onerous if you are a younger person unused to adapting to unexpected threats.
As country music songster Gary Allan put in his song, Life Ain’t Always Beautiful: “Struggles make you stronger, and the changes make you wiser, and happiness has its own way of taking its sweet time. Life isn’t always lovely, but it’s a beautiful ride.”