Meet my friend Sylvia, she is 80 years old, we have known each other for 7 years now and we regularly meet to eat and chat. With an age difference of 50 years and very different backgrounds, we have a fascinating friendship and are open to each other’s perspectives and ideas in life.
This won’t affect us. That was our initial thought, until the first infection in the Netherlands was reported and Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the official guidelines regarding the corona virus on Monday the 23rd of March. When this happened what were your first thoughts?
I was very happy with the guidelines and I wasn’t worried for myself. I thought: I am healthy and I am strong. I feel lively and have been active all my life. I tried to remind myself: only listen to the news once a day and only listen to the experts. There is a lot of panic in the news, and this created a lot of anxiety in my environment. Everyone around me was talking about it, it was the hot topic. I go outside every day, to take a walk in a quiet place. I usually do this with one person that I keep at a distance.
I am aware that people over 80 are more vulnerable. Deterioration of your organs and immune system is something to be expected with old age. I am realistic and won’t let it get to my head.
Do you or have you felt alone during this period?
There has been no change in my feelings of loneliness before or during corona. As always, I maintain social contact through the telephone. I do miss going to the museum alot and visiting my granddaughter in Amsterdam. I don’t take public transport. Further than that, I don’t feel limited. I have a car and can drive anywhere.
Do you or have you felt gloomy?
My mood has not changed during or by corona. I still think: I am so happy that I have traveled so much. Portugal, Mexico, Curaçao, Kenya, South Africa, wow! I am so glad that I have been able to have this experience. Remembering this gives me great pleasure.
Imagine someone you know feels alone or anxious. What would you say to that person?
I advised my friend to still leave the house occasionally, to get some fresh air and stay active. Besides that, one thing I hadn’t done is meet my granddaughter. After a few weeks, my son came along with my granddaughter. I had seen a child psychologist briefly on the youth news. A child said, “I am not sick and neither is my grandmother. Can I go visit my grandmother? And the psychologist said, “Yes you may!” Based on that, I thought: I am healthy, I will make sure that I still see my granddaughter.
Has the news ever made you feel anxious?
I can put it into perspective fairly quickly. I try to rationalize it. I am also lucky with my genetics. There are no diseases in the family. I have a good immune system for my age, partly due to my genetics but also due to my lifestyle. I love simple and healthy food.
The corona guidelines are being relaxed. What did you think about this and how are you going to behave?
I am happy that the schools have opened again for all children. Some of the conditions at home are bad, it is tough for children to continuously focus on a screen, learning difficulties can arise. I used to work in education, so I can really sympathize with them. I am glad that the children can see their friends again. I think the catering industry is a big step. I will not be so quick to sit on a terrace. I definitely want to go to the museum, if there are good safety measures in place. On a small terrace with enough space, yes I will sit there. I am aware of the actions I make and I don’t really feel any different.
What are your top tips for others?
– Go outside and stay active.
– Keep in touch with your friends, and stay in contact.