I’ve been talking about age this week with friends. I don’t feel like I’m older in my head. Maybe thirty five would be my ideal age although I’d settle for fifty to be honest. Of course I’ve lost wellbeing in recent years and mobility but the thing I miss most is the energy. I’ve enjoyed having the energy to do lots in the past and I had most vitality when I did some running, only 10k level but I had a spring in my step and loved it. Oh to bring that back.
Another reminder of age was when I was signing into a new account recently and had to scroll down the range of adult age groups before I found mine in the 1950s. That was sobering. I was scared to look at how much longer it goes on! As we recently mused over the decades passed we were also talking about our favourite piece of classic clothing. Mine was definitely my afghan coat that stunk and wasn’t especially helpful at keeping me warm. There were no buttons or hooks merely a clutch of fingers, as I tripped over my skirt several inches too long and my hair down past my waist flew around my eyes, I was truly a sight to behold. If there were also clogs over the cobbles added to the mix, I wonder that I managed to get anywhere! I think that coat finally stood up and left home. We didn’t miss each by that stage.
Another reminder of age has been all the talk of Coronavirus. When there was discussion that perhaps retired nurses and medics could come back to support the NHS during a pandemic my first thought was oh, I will volunteer. And then I looked down and thought, maybe not. But the old instincts remain. And sadly I’m reminded I’m the burden not the solution.
I can’t be alone in getting just a bit cheesed off when deaths from the virus are announced, we are reassured they are from the at risk groups. Older people, those with underlying health issues are a lesser loss they seem to say. The reassurance to the wider population has the impact of implying our deaths don’t count. Hello there, I’m still working ( and you won’t give me my pension for several years). I’m active in community and with my family and friends. I can offer support to others, not physically ( although I’m always good for a hug) but in every other way. Every person written off is someone’s mother, friend, sister, father, grandfather........you get my message.we all count, we all deserve to be grieved for, we all contribute however small as we shrink into older age. The advice for a being with at risks groups surely is to remind us of their vulnerability and to encourage preventive matters.
Of course the paradox for me is that self isolation might be wise, whilst knowing that what keeps me emotionally well is interaction with people and especially family and good friends. The times i forget about pain are when I’m immersed in time with those I love and I won’t be alone in this.
Already psychologists are writing about the risks of social isolation as we try to contain the virus.
We are complex beings who are wired for connection. As we approach this virus, let’s also remind ourselves of kindness and the difference it makes.
Kindness by Naomi Shihab NYE