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Seventy and Strong

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Septuagenarians are a sturdy bunch; they’ve lived a life and have the receipts to prove it 

By Vejay Steede 

The onset of Covid-19 in early 2020 was said to be a very bad thing for elders, putting them at high risk and ushering in a plethora of intrusive restrictions that brought the entire world to a standstill. The measures were designed to protect the most vulnerable among us, and stress was reportedly high in the senior community. 

After approximately 18 months of our Covid-19 induced ‘new normal,’ however, it appears that the seniors have mastered post-Covid serenity better than most other demographics. This is a phenomenon that has been attributed to the concept of time. Seniors view time differently than the rest of us, and, for many, worrying and fretting is a huge waste of time. 

Professor Marcia G. Ory, a public health and aging expert, and founding director of the Texas A&M Center of Population Health and Aging, describes how seniors relate to time. 

“Many older people have redefined their experiences in terms of time left to live, and they focus on what is most meaningful now. They let go of what they can’t do anything about. Instead of looking back, older adults are motivated to enjoy the time they have left.” 

This is a truth that became vividly clear when we spoke to three local septuagenarians about their own experiences with this 21st century plague and the necessary measures employed to contain it. All of our participants were happy, secure, and confident in their responses, showing no signs of anxiety or uncertainty for what the future may bring. 

Randolph Horton, 76, former professional athlete, school principal, and government minister, as well as an individual who used to captain Somerset Cricket Club to victories over my beloved St. George’s when I was still a boy, is still very active, healthy, and mobile. 

“Covid-19 restrictions did not impact negatively on my self-care. If anything, it helped me to focus on health issues unrelated to Covid-19. In a way the restrictions were a blessing.” Can you imagine seeing these onerous, freedom stealing restrictions as a blessing? Now that is how to boss a situation! 

Mr Horton goes on to say that he had no problems getting required medical care and that he did not experience any emotional wellness issues during the shelter in place orders. His philosophy was very much in line with the idea of letting stressors go and making the most of the time we have. 

“I never focused on the negatives associated with being cut off from the world physically,” he continued. “Of course, I missed getting out and interacting with family, colleagues and friends. I missed going to the spa to swim and exercise four days a week. However, I saw the positives. I accepted the situation and realised the positives. It gave me an opportunity to reflect. I am not an avid reader, except for information related to my job responsibilities, but I suddenly found myself reading recreationally. That was a blessing. Also, technology, FaceTime, meant my wife and I could talk with, and see, my children and their families.” 

How will Mr Horton navigate our post-Covid world going forward? “Any health concerns I have I immediately share with my doctor and get the required treatment. To minimise health concerns, I will continue to walk along the Railway Trail with beautiful views of North Shore and swim at least four days per week.” 

A simple, yet elegant way of being. 

Our second participant was Gereen Albouy, 71, an avid church goer and radio talk show contributor. Mrs Albouy summarily dismissed the notion that the Covid-19 restrictions obstructed her personal self-care regime, describing the impact as, “none at all. I was able to do everything that I wanted to do to keep me in good health.” 

She also reported that she was able to receive all the medical attention she required during the lockdown, including in-person visits to her GP, and that she experienced no emotional wellness issues at all. “I was very much at peace with myself,” she said. 

Mrs Albouy described how she coped with being cut off from the world by turning the situation on its head. “I did not feel cut off during the pandemic. I was part of my church team delivering lunches to seniors and felt so happy to engage with them to ensure they were doing well during the shutdown. I also was able to join so many Zoom meetings for professional development and for church services that I would not have been able to attend if there wasn’t a shutdown.” 

It appears that local septuagenarians really did turn these Covid-19 lemons into lemonade, obliterating the myth that this plague was ever going to be especially hard on seniors. 

Oliver Bain, 75, former BPS Inspector and avid cricketer was our final participant. 

Mr Bain described his self-care regime like this: “I try to sleep at least seven hours nightly. If I am unable to, then I try to get an ‘afternoon siesta’ between 2pm and 4pm. I also try to eat a healthy diet, drink about five glasses of water and exercise regularly.” 

Mr. Bain did disclose a medical issue, unrelated to Covid-19, that he had to deal with. “I had some health problems over the last several months which caused me to be hospitalised and have subsequent surgery. The medical care was first class at the hospital. The aftercare I experienced at home was superb, which involved health care professionals who frequently visited me.” 

On the topic of emotional wellness issues and coping with Covid-19 restrictions, Mr Bain said, “I did not experience emotional distress as I kept in touch with family and friends, and I kept myself active …. I caught up on my reading, played Scrabble, engaged in online chats with friends with different interests such as politics, tennis, cricket and current events, and most of all, I tried to stay active by exercising. 

“I am reaching the twilight of my life and it is imperative that I follow the doctor’s advice so I can emulate my mother, who is 101 years old and still lucid.” 

How’s that for inspiration? 

Of course, these stories don’t represent all septuagenarians; some will have struggled to cope with the Covid-19 measures, and the Centers for Disease Control are not fabricating numbers when they report that persons aged 65 and older account for 80 percent of coronavirus-related deaths. Septuagenarians can still enjoy a decent quality of life though, as we have seen through our participants’ testimony. 

Dr Ory ascribes the coping skills of seniors during Covid-19 to the development of calmness, interest, and gratitude over a lifetime. “Despite popular notions that older adults would have more negative reactions to forced social isolation, a recent national survey revealed that older adults, despite their awareness of increased risk, are generally not reporting more feelings of anxiety, anger or stress than younger age groups. 

“They are actually expressing more positive emotions – feelings of calmness, interest and gratitude. 

“This surprising finding has been attributed partly to older adults’ perceptions of time and their coping mechanisms developed over a lifetime.” 

It seems that the wisdom accrued over decades of living through the highs and lows that touch every human life has brought our seniors to a place where they can see a plague that many of us perceive to be a very traumatic episode in human existence for what it is; and get on with it. 

Local statistics show that our seniors have been getting vaccinated at a high rate, and that detail, when paired with the discipline and wisdom to live a clean, quiet, stable life, make them well equipped to ride out this ongoing storm. 

Our participants all closed with words of wisdom for their contemporaries as they continue to navigate these precarious, Covid-19 affected waters. Eat a healthy, balanced diet, exercise regularly, interact with family and friends through technology often, and get all the rest your heart desires. 

Mrs Albouy was especially generous with her pearls of insight. “Look for areas to engage with old and new friends, follow health guidelines, be happy! Get busy with something you always wanted to do before you retired. Visit your doctor for advice before you get sick!” 

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