In some ways life looks like any December. It is dark before 5pm. The freeze-thaw-freeze pattern of the month creates slick pavements. However this is unlike any December we have experienced. Something called a ‘circuit breaker’ is now a lockdown. We’ve been coping with the impacts of Covid-19 since mid-March and we’re fed up with authorities telling us to buck up (our flagging discipline) and pare down (our beloved holidays).
Still, many of the people I’ve been in contact with have found more than one silver lining in this pandemic. Perhaps because of the age of my friends, students and acquaintances, and their fortunate economic situations, even the busiest and most sociable of my contacts have gained some powerful insights about their lives and life in general. We can now focus on what we have to be grateful for. The lack of social and other noises has turned out to be unexpected gifts. One of the first things people noted in the spring, at the start of the pandemic, was that they could observe and hear the natural world.
Ellyn Lem, author of Gray Matters: Finding Meaning in the Stories of Later Life, reviewed two recent surveys which report on how seniors are coping with the pandemic. (‘Often, the elderly handle the pandemic very well’, The Washington Post. 19 September 2020). Patrick Klaiber, a doctoral student at UBC, surveyed 776 Canadian and American adults between the ages 18 to 91 and reported that those 65 and older are better at handling the up-and-downs of the pandemic than younger adults. Another study by Edward Jones and the think tank Age Wave, in which 9,000 people across five generations were surveyed, found that older adults for the most part have done very well at fostering resilience during these challenging times. Some seniors have acquired brand new virtual skills to stay connected and are proud of their achievements. Lem, drawing from her own surveys of over 200 seniors, concludes that older adults cope well with uncertainty. Mature adults and retirees have more patience, and perspective, and have developed ‘appreciation for the good that remains in their lives,’ writes Lem.
At first glance this seems paradoxical. Seniors are much more impacted by the risk factors of Covid, as we have seen in the devastating statics of nursing home deaths, so how could optimistic traits prevail in this demographic? Yet when I think of my own parents and people around me in this age group, these findings ring true.
Even Oprah has found the wisdom and buoyancy in these times and shared her insights in the August what I know for sure column. She writes about all that she learned during this time of isolation where Zoom became her ‘new best friend.’ But she also reminds us that for many there is no silver lining, only hardship. The pandemic has brought to the surface many unpleasant truths about persisting economic and social inequities and injustices, including systemic racism. The adversities of 2020 have been especially hard on people living in poverty and/or in crowded circumstances, such as those in big-city high-rises, where it may take a 20-minute wait to take the elevator to reach the ground floor. (Many of the people living in these circumstances are delivering essential services and healthcare.) ‘We got a time-out,’ writes Oprah. ‘We required a reset so we could see without obstructions what is essential.’
Essential in a month where daylight is scarce and holidays are diminished is care. Care for ourselves, and care for the people around us. Many of us are providing support to loved ones in isolation, or to those whose mental health is more fragile than our own. It’s crucial not to neglect our well-being as we shore up others.
Margot McKinnon, founder of the popular Toronto Pilates studio, Body Harmonics, tells her instructors ‘what we do is an essential service’. I agree wholeheartedly. Exercise is paramount to selfcare, de-stressing, and health. I need the routine and release of participating in Pilates and other forms of exercise as much as my students. This is why, for the first time in my 22 years of teaching, I am offering online classes over the holiday period. Many other Pilates and yoga teachers are doing the same. If you haven’t already done so, it may be the time to try out a free virtual mind-body movement class and see if this approach is for you.
My blog Adapting Pilates for Our Longer Lives will pause for three weeks and will launch again on Wednesday, January 6th, 2021. A heartfelt thanks for all of your responses. I’ll never grow tired of hearing about how students have found value in the videos and blogs and have finally been able to understand a new aspect of their movement program. Have a great holiday and see you back here on January 6th.