Aging Well

Pandemic changing our lives as we wait for the 'after'

There is nothing like sickness and death to help frame what is a worthwhile way to spend a day, or even a life.

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Peter Rumsey and Barbara Wishy
Liisa Ogburn

“More neighbors are walking outdoors or setting up chairs – at a distance – to talk outside in the evenings,” my friend Catherine Bishir told me over the phone. “It’s a change.”

My backdoor neighbors Peter and Barbara pointed to the stuffed giraffe in the window when I dropped off a loaf of bread and avocados a few days ago. Many other houses had hidden stuffed animals in windows for children to find on a Saturday walk through the neighborhood. With play dates forbidden and playgrounds closed, it provided a carrot for parents to get the kids out of the house, exercise and connect with others themselves, while also practicing social distancing.

My 77-year-old mother, sequestered in another town, sends me and my kids funny texts circulating among her and her friends now that they can’t see each other in person. (This spoof advertisement on Alexa for Seniors is a good one).

There are many, many dire consequences of this global pandemic. My husband, on the front lines at the hospital, is a constant reminder of that. Each night when he returns home, I’ve learned I must take the garbage bag of work clothes immediately down to the basement washer, use the hottest temperature setting, pour in Clorox, and then afterwards employ the hottest dryer setting. I must also bleach the door knob, faucet and anything else he may have touched on the way to the shower. He has quarantined himself in my daughter’s room, and she has moved into mine.

There are also surprising developments that would seemingly never have come about without such severe and prolonged restrictions. Car pollution, in urban areas around the world, has gone measurably down. Time for idle conversation and quieter living, it seems, has gone up, at least among those of us not working in essential services. Perhaps, too, has an appreciation of simpler pleasures.

My father said on the phone the other day, “This will mark how you and your kids measure time going forward. Things will have happened either before the pandemic or after.

We are living through a moment that will mark all of us.

Quadriplegic psychologist Daniel Gottlieb writes in his book, The Wisdom We’re Born With: Restoring Our Faith in Ourselves, “To grow, we must release our grasp on the familiar.”

That is what we are all doing, in big and small ways.

There is nothing like sickness and death to help frame what is a worthwhile way to spend a day, or even a life.


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