During these strange times when a new virus has afflicted humankind, we recall a Scripture verse that tells us: for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). I was reminded of this verse as I reflected on the elderly and the many women and men who must confront this new virus.
Let me explain … we often find ourselves faced with discourses that suffer from a certain “liberation from scruples.” An example of such speech is that which reveals a certain disdain for the risk of death when speaking about our elderly population. It is as if it were acceptable to state that our assessment with regard to the death of our elderly population should not be considered as “serious” and therefore, we should consider relaxing the guidelines and measures of social distancing and quarantine in favor of creating better economic conditions and more favorable situations for those who are younger.
As I have pointed, within this unscrupulous discourse there is a perverse logic, according to which the elderly are not productive and so their disappearance would be less harmful to society. In addition, we find further trivialization among those who say that “old age, in itself, is already a very vulnerable reality.”
Yes, the elderly are more vulnerable … physically because they have a body that bears the marks, scars and damage, the merit of those who have lived long enough and, especially, of those who have survived long enough. But we need to examine our biases in order to recognize that old age is not just a vulnerability.
Indeed, as the elderly moved through life, journeyed through countless days, years and decades, they obtained something very precious (precious for themselves and for us): resilience.
Resilience is a concept that we have borrowed from physics and that speaks of the ability of a subject to cope with the most adverse situations, to overcome problems and difficulties and, even more than that … to react positively to them without experiencing some psychological conflict.
Those who go through life and reach old age have certainly developed their own resilience … and this resilience has become a survival strategy and an instrument of support that enables them to skillfully cope with new beginnings … not only their own new beginning but also that of a collective or a community.
In these times, when we are confronted with the horrifying face of this pandemic and are forced to adapt to new forms of social functioning which makes us fragile (without distinction) and creates many uncertainties about the future, it is the elderly who can best offer us the resilience and the strength that we need to live through these days and do so with hope for the future.
Our elders are compasses who point out the path to life, who connect the past to the future and lead us to hope, wisdom and strength, so that we can continue to live despite our fears. Our future will appear from the transmission of this resilience … therefore, we can journey successfully with our elders … there will never be success without them!
Professor and Psychologist