The Elderly Confront Their Mortality Thanks To The Coronavirus

Saint Petersburg – Elizabeth Hubbart checked out passages for a cruise that was following in the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific. Joel Demski planned to attend his grandson’s graduation from the Naval Academy. James Kelly had a trip to Scotland planned to scatter his father’s ashes in the River Clyde near Glasgow.

Everyone is over 60 years old and must accept a harsh reality: that their plans, their hopes, their lists of things to do before they die will not only be delayed, but perhaps never will be thanks to the coronavirus.

The global pandemic makes those over 60 wonder how much time they have left and how to take advantage of it now that there are restrictions on movements. Instead of visiting the Seven Wonders of the World or spending more time with their families, many worry about more mundane things, such as whether it’s dangerous to go to the grocery store or leave the house.


Guilt, anger, and frustration surface at the thought of wasted time, all the things you want to do and haven’t done yet.

“One year less (of life) is one less trip,” said Bob Busch, 72, passionate about travel in Sarasota, Florida, who suspended a getaway with his wife to camp for 35 days. They are both in good health, but it is impossible to predict how they will feel after the pandemic is over. “How many more times can we hook the trailer and head west?”

Demski, who lives in Vero Beach, Florida, felt very bad when the Naval Academy canceled the graduation ceremony. Instead of leaving for Annapolis to be with her grandson, she suffers thinking that the boy set sail on a mission. A visit to California for the graduation of another grandson at UCLA also came to naught.

“It is very sad,” said Demski, who will soon be 80 years old.

Mick Smyer, a professor of psychology at Bucknell University who studies aging processes, said the postwar generation, today’s sixties, and the elderly still have to confront their mortality. With each headline that talks about the vulnerability of those over 60, this population asks: Will I be able to see and do everything I wanted to see and do?

“They remember the good times,” Smyer said. “Now they have less options ahead. The next two years do not count. How many good years will they have afterwards? ”Said the expert, implying that in the next two years it will be inadvisable to travel and do many other things.

Kelly, a 63-year-old psychologist who plays guitar and composes country music tracks, says he has been thinking a lot about the future while locked up alone at home. He wonders when he can take his father’s ashes to his native Scotland.

“My most recent topics address the issue of age. How to cope with life and the things we lose. What was and what lies ahead, everything I have behind me and what little I have left to do. ”

“I don’t have much way to go,” he said in one of those songs.

At the same time, many rejoice that their sacrifices reflect a privileged life. Millions of people who have lost their jobs or are performing indispensable, poorly paid jobs cannot afford these luxuries. Perhaps they never could and will not.

“Part of what I feel is honestly guilt,” said Judy Foreman, 70, of Flourtown, Pennsylvania. “There were some inconveniences and we are scared, but we can handle it. I try to help within my means. When they bring me food, I give a very good tip. I collaborate with community canteens ”.

But still the feeling of time slipping through her hands upsets her a little. You cannot visit your daughters in California. She can’t even hug three grandchildren who live across the street.

“You suffer from a mixture of depression, loneliness, boredom, fear. Above all fear ”. He spends hours cleaning grocery packaging, disinfecting door knobs, thinking about how different the future will be.

“I do all this because I don’t want to die. Yes, I think about my mortality, ”he admitted, almost whispering.

Helen Miltiades, professor of gerontology at Fresno State University, California, says that older people feel things that younger ones don’t perceive.

“Everyone talks about how everything has changed. But what does that mean? I think we don’t know yet. “

Hubbard, who was due to go on a cruise with her husband, canceled the trip. At 70, he doesn’t give up hope of ever seeing Hugh Jackman, his favorite actor, on Broadway. But you know you may not be able to.

“This was my decade,” he said. “And it has taken a very different course than I expected.”

Dena Davis is more optimistic. A lecturer in bioethics at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 73, she stopped taking a gap year for the pandemic and says she may have to postpone her retirement.

“If you’re lucky, the reason you don’t have much time left is because you already had a lot of time,” he philosophized. “It all depends on how you look at it. I don’t see too many things in front of me. (But) There are many nice things behind it. You can’t have both at the same time. “