I saw my father in person yesterday for the first time in five months! He’s been tucked inside his nursing home during the pandemic. We’ve had Zoom calls, but there is no substitute for an in-person visit. I was elated.
During our visit, an acrylic glass sheet separated us, and six feet of space. I would have loved to have held his hand and hugged him, although I personally am not to the point that I value that touch over his or my health, or the health of any of his caregivers, and I am thankful for all of the precautions his facility and caregivers are taking to ensure everyone’s safety.
We’ve heard a lot lately about the loneliness and isolation that some residents — and their families — are feeling during the pandemic. These feelings are real, and there are real consequences of the separation of residents and their loved ones.
Nonetheless, I took some comfort in the results of a study recently published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia analyzed data from 776 participants, aged 18 to 91 years, who lived in Canada and the United States and completed daily surveys for one week about their stressors, positive events and their emotional well-being during the first several weeks of the pandemic. Based on this daily diary data collected between mid-March and mid-April, the researchers concluded that adults aged 60 or more years experienced greater emotional well-being and felt less stressed and threatened by the pandemic compared with younger adults (aged 18 to 39) and middle-aged adults (aged 40 to 59).
“Our findings provide new evidence that older adults are emotionally resilient despite public discourse often portraying their vulnerability,” said lead author Patrick Klaiber, who is a graduate student in the UBC Department of Psychology.
The difference in reported stress levels, he added, may be a result of age-related stressors and how well the different age groups respond to stress.
“While older adults are faced with stressors such as higher rates of disease contraction, severe complications and mortality from COVID-19, they also possess more coping skills to deal with stress as they are older and wiser,” Klaiber said.
He and colleagues hope their findings will help in the development of programs and strategies to bolster mental health for adults of all age groups. As this pandemic goes on, such programs increasingly will be needed.