No doubt we all wonder: how long can the pandemic take? What is the course you can take? And how to wait for the vaccine without despair? The difference lies in the level of impact it can have on each one of us.
Older people, like those with certain comorbidities, find themselves in a much more complex situation. Even when social, preventive and mandatory distancing gave way to more open cities, the change was not reflected to the same extent in this group, because the risk is still latent.
It is true that the pandemic showed us the great resilience of older people. In national and international research, the mental health of this age group revealed the use of a wide range of adaptive resources that allowed them to strengthen their capacity for recovery, well above the youngest. What ruined numerous myths about his psycho-affective fragility.
Older people showed a great capacity to care for themselves and others, lower levels of depression, anxiety, substance use or other harmful habits.
Many were able to encourage technology by enabling new forms of communication, exchanges and continuity with virtual activities.
However, not all were able to count on the same resources, being the people with the lowest educational level, those between 60 and 74 years old and women who found the most difficulties in this situation.
In an investigation carried out in the City of Buenos Aires it was shown that even in those who had better responses to the pandemic, the perception of confinement, loneliness, difficulties in coexistence, vulnerability, fear and uncertainty about the future increased.
As well as fears of hospitalization and loss of contact with one’s own, be it the house, loved ones and their belongings, were highlighted.
The pandemic has modified deep-rooted social habits in the population and especially in the elderly.
Many of these abandoned their recreational and educational activities; their social encounters; his medical visits, his walks.
What for a good part meant a complex but positive adaptation, for others it implied symptoms of fear and anguish that lead to leaving the home very worrying, that they cannot leave their homes, visit loved ones and a notorious anger towards who if they go out or not take care of themselves properly.
Interestingly, in recent months, the growing openness that occurred has generated tensions in those older people who continue to take care of themselves. Somehow the seriousness of the consequences seems to have been questioned, not because of the scientific discourse but because of the number of people we see on the streets, ignoring the necessary distancing and questioning the extent to which it is reasonable to take care of oneself.
A situation that leads to intergenerational conflicts: “young people who do not take care of themselves and infect their grandparents”; the feeling of not being cared for socially by those who do not have the same risk and even doubting about the sinuous margin of care and excessive fear.
On the contrary, this feeling appears in older people, who want to start dating, and criticism, often aggressive, from their children so that they do not go out.
Not having been able to celebrate Christmas and New Years or do it with limitations; Failure to dare to go on vacation and not being able to form a plausible idea of when all this will end leads to an increase in the perception of vulnerability, confinement and uncertainty and the enormous difficulty of projecting one’s life.
For all this, vaccines appear as a hope since they can not only prevent infections but also bring a certain positive expectation to lives that begin to be thought from the confinement.
In this sense, it is essential to be cautious with the news that is generated since each of these produces levels of insecurity that affect the physical and mental health of the population and, particularly, of those who continue to wait for a green light to exit.
Rushed, tendentious or delusional debates, such as the “anti-vaccines”, today conspire against a high value social good as the possibility of giving predictability to the unpredictable.
For many specialists, this year, mental health will be one of the great topics to be discussed.
The long duration of this pandemic results, regardless of chronological age, in an increased risk of suffering adverse psychological outcomes.
This should lead us to start with various forms of assistance that address “psychological first aid”, that is, promoting care with accessible and low-cost devices to large numbers of people who express discomfort and who do not find a space capable of manifest them and find more positive meanings to what has been lived.
This does not prevent them from being combined with more specific psychotherapeutic treatments that address the most complex effects that may have been generated.
Society is being challenged in its capacity to accept a reality that still, and at times, seems like a passing nightmare.
Ricardo Iacub is a Doctor of Psychology (UBA), specialist in Middle Age and Old Age Psychology.