As COVID cases mount, older adults are leaning into a long winter of isolation.
For many of us with underlying conditions, our lives have changed dramatically since March 2020 when the WHO declared the virus had become a pandemic. Since then, we’ve been living differently, but if we remain healthy, there are ways to weather the tumult and keep our emotional balance.
Here’s how I try to look at it:
- My husband and I have learned that we can be together 24/7 for eight months straight without growing tired of each other’s company. Actually, we’re enjoying our time together by discovering that we take life at precisely the same pace. There are no disagreements about when we rise or when we go to sleep, when we take our meals or watch CNN. We’re on the same channel.
- Sandy, my husband, has learned to cook. As he says, “You’ve unleashed a monster. Now I’m not afraid to cook for myself.” Somehow he’d managed to get to his sixties without making a bowl of chilli or roasting a chicken. Now, all that has changed. We’re trading places in the kitchen every few days. He cooks one day, I cook the next, and I couldn’t be more delighted or relieved.
- I’ve registered a heightened degree of joy watching our dog Rufus ramble through his days. Rufus is a 152-pound Great Pyrenees, so he’s big and fluffy and sweet-tempered. To boot, I’ve never seen him happier. Mom and Dad are home all the time, and when we do venture out, he comes along. Rides in the car, walks in the country, Rufus is at our side, calm, composed and expressing his abundant pleasure in never being left alone.
- As before the pandemic, my daughter and I talk every night on the phone, and I’m impressed with her resilience and her work ethic. My daughter is a stage actor. The theatres where she works are dark, and no one knows when they will re-open. In the meantime, she’s written a play, which she is now revising with a dramaturge. Of course, she longs to be on the stage again with her fellow actors, but she remains confident that her summer 2021 gig at an outdoor Shakespearean Festival will happen. This winter she’s teaching an online course to young actors.
- Online video platforms are a keeper. Every Friday night since the end of March, a group of my friends from Ottawa and Toronto meet online for what we call our “Happy Hour,” and, indeed, it is happy. So far, we haven’t once cancelled a Happy Hour call. All of us attended university together, we’re roughly the same age, and each of us can complain of our own underlying condition. The thing is, we don’t spend too much of our time together complaining. Although we’ve imposed a lockdown on ourselves, we do have each other. It makes a huge difference to my mental health and provides a two-hour online event that I look forward to throughout the entire week.
- Attending online book launches, lectures, readings, and conferences is keeping me in the loop. I must confess that I’m lazy about driving to Toronto in normal times. Parking and driving home on a darkened highway disturbs me, so I’ve missed many downtown events. Now, these types of gatherings are presented online – and for free. I’ve attended the Toronto International Film Festival, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, the Toronto International Writers Festival and multiple book and political lectures and discussions in Hamilton, Ottawa, Waterloo, Montreal, New York City and Los Angeles. All online with a front-row seat and plenty of opportunities to ask questions and chat with the participants.
- Last but not least, I’ve found a groove for my writing and editing schedule that has kept me working five days a week throughout the pandemic. I’m accustomed to working alone. So much so that collaborating with other writers and editors online during the pandemic has added a much appreciated social element to my workday. I cherish communicating with writers and editors online as we bring our work to the printed or digital page.
Without being a Pollyanna, I want to share the good moments that have evolved around staying home, not shopping, not eating inside restaurants, not travelling. A long list, I must admit, but not insurmountable. Not all bad or sad. And that’s the way I’m going to try to make it through this dark winter as we wait for the vaccine that I pray will return the world to normal.