These are undoubtedly stressful times for us all, and each of us must find our own ways of coping – yet, for those who are aged sixty-years plus and deemed high-risk, the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially trying.
Unavoidable conversations of the value of human life are taking place daily, such as when decisions must be made about who will receive the necessary medical equipment and who will not. Politicians are weighing the value of elderly lives against the future state of the economy, and we are all left asking ourselves what the cut-off point is for the value of human life? If one demographic of the population is expendable, what does that mean for our collective futures?
Americans over the age of sixty are finding themselves in a position where they must combat their own anxieties and demonstrate resilience in a society that has forgotten that with age comes experience and wisdom.
In Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl he discusses the importance of commitment in the face of adversity, that finding meaning in our everyday realities is invaluable and that we can look to work, love, courage, and humor to choose a way to transcend the present. While we may not be able to alter our exterior lives, our inner life can become a refuge we build for ourselves from the loneliness and emptiness of difficult circumstances. In this way, Frankl believes we have a choice to surpass our adversities with a great amount of resilience.
One course of action for those over sixty during this time is to practice something referred to by Frankl as “tragic optimism,” in which one hopes for difficulties to pass without too much pain or suffering. We know that prolonged stress and anxiety is bad for overall well-being and practicing such an approach allows for a degree of acceptance that can minimize the amount of stress that needs to be involved.
So what can those over sixty be doing during this quarantine to minimize their stress and find meaning through it all? Some suggestions to consider might be working as normal, working towards enjoying each day to the fullest, reaching out to friends and family and looking for sources of renewed hope – such as nature.
In truth, there is no other option than for all of us to make the best out of our situation and be kind to others as they strive to do the same.