COVID-19 has led me to observe a new intergenerational behaviour: many adult children, some close and some from far away, are panicking about the welfare of their parents in a manner their parents have never experienced before.
Advice, even insistent ‘demands’ are relayed about 'stay home', 'don't go to the supermarket' and 'don’t mix'.
I am the first to admit that I live in a country that has so far, navigated COVID-19 reasonably successfully, and we are gingerly taking baby steps to find a new normal. I also acknowledge that other parts of the world are seriously alarming, and I totally understand that everyone needs to be exceedingly cautious. It is completely natural for family members to be anxious about one another.
My concern, however, is that seniors, everywhere have acquired a new label they never asked for: ‘Handle with care’.
My question is: will they ever lose it? Will seniors be allowed to go back to making their own decisions, and not being dictated to? Will their children give them slack and allow them to be independent again?
I was amused to read an article about a senior New Zealander who is currently ‘trapped’ in New Zealand, and for logistical reasons still unable to repatriate to his home in Vanuatu. He is safe, in good hands and accepting of his current lot. His most animated comment was:
"The only thing that really gets me annoyed, is the reference to the elderly, I'm 73 years old. And when I hear people talking about the elderly as if we're an infirm group I really get p***ed off, sorry about the language. I work all the time."
I am blessed that my mother lives 10 minutes’ drive away in a retirement village. Pre-COVID-19 we would chat by phone, maybe once a week and we often joked about families who rang each other every day. We both said we were too busy for that. However, with lockdown I video called Mum every day. She would relay the comings and goings of the village and she commented that many residents were ‘dealing with’ panicking children - for them, as much a challenge as COVID-19. One day Mum said to me "Thank you for not telling me what to do".
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