Aging Well

Aging Well

Serve others: An antidote for trying times

Posted August 14, 2020 8:38 a.m. EDT

Serving others can be an antidote in times like these

Without the small and large events that punctuate our regular lives—from meeting friends in Sunday School or for lunch, to a reunion at the beach with family--days bleed together. It’s easy, so easy, to feel lost, unmoored these days.

Five months into the social distancing necessitated by the 2020 pandemic, I see many of my older friends especially struggling. Without the regular outings and social interaction that stimulate one physically and cognitively, systems fall into disuse. It’s almost like the teeth of the gears that had held lives in place have worn down.

“It doesn’t even feel like we had a summer,” my youngest lamented before sitting down to her first full day of school online yesterday.

Google announced that they will not reopen their physical offices until June of 2021. Really? Do we really have another ten months of life like this?

Breathe in, breathe out.

Last week, when I shared something that had been worrying me with an older friend in a class I teach on aging at my church, the next day I found a homemade loaf of her sourdough bread on my porch and a jar of honey from bees her husband kept. An act of generosity at a moment of despair can bring tears.

Yesterday, when neighbor Lisa Barrie, the director of Raleigh City Farm, mentioned she had six bouquets left over from the weekly farmer’s market, I told her I would identify six neighbors who could really use a pick-me-up.

At the end of the workday, we masked up and headed out with two buckets. Lisa had her own sorrows; ironically, while we were out delivering flowers, others were leaving bouquets on her doorstep for her.

In the last weeks, I’ve received so many calls.

“I’m depressed.”

“My spouse (or parent) with dementia was doing alright before the pandemic, but she/he has really declined since…”

“I feel so disconnected.”

“I feel desperate.”

One doesn’t have to be religious (though Pew reports that more people are returning to church, be it virtually these days) to adopt an age-old wisdom that every religion encourages: Serve others.

A side effect: not only does this help you get out of your own head, there can be real joy at seeing the joy an act of kindness can bring.

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