For all those people who are in the age group of 65-70 and above, COVID has been quite bad. Their age has weakened their immunity and increased their social isolation.
I and my wife Nandini Nimbkar are in this age group and I would like to share how we were able to cope with the situation created by this pandemic during the past year. I also hope others in the same age group share their experiences so that this knowledge can be pooled together to help elders cope up in future pandemics.
- We live in India in rural Maharashtra (Phaltan Taluka, Satara District) and run a small agricultural Science and Technology NGO, called Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute where we work in the areas of agriculture (crops and animals) and renewable energy.
- Because of the emphasis on agriculture in our Institute we were allowed by the Government authorities to remain open during the whole pandemic period. We strictly followed the protocols and norms of physical distancing; wearing face masks; daily regime of taking personal temperatures of the staff and washing hands with soap or using sanitizers. Together with this was the fact that we had a limited number of people on our staff and so we could easily avoid office crowding. And the agricultural activities in the field made implementation of physical distancing quite easy.
- During the pandemic and early lockdowns, the vehicular traffic in Phaltan reduced drastically resulting in air and noise pollution reduction. Similarly, because of the pandemic the visitors to the Institute were also considerably reduced. Thus the quiet and peaceful atmosphere created by pandemic gave me the peace of mind and allowed me to write and contemplate on various issues affecting us. I wrote about 37 articles during a period of 9 months (March to December 2020) and they were published in various websites.
- I have always been proud of my culinary skills and COVID crisis allowed this talent to flow! Thus I cooked all the meals for the family. Only the chapattis and bhakaries were made by the cleaning women. Cooking is a very enjoyable exercise. It takes the mind away from lots of worries; is creative and is a good physical activity. As we age, we need to remain active and I feel that cooking and doing housework is a good way to remain active. My mother who stayed with us had a 24/7 attendant so both I and my wife did the cooking for a 4-member household. After passing away of my mother in September we had to do the cooking only for the two of us.
- One of the most important advantages that we have is that we are not at all social. So we never felt the loneliness that most old people feel during such pandemics since their face-to-face interaction with other people gets curbed. We read, listened to talks or news on the internet and conversed with our friends and daughters via the phone and internet. This allowed us to be a master of our own time so that we could focus on creative activities of writing and researching.
- Pandemic also allowed us to really take full advantage of internet communication. Thus Nandini used this opportunity to indulge in her love affair of music. She took lessons in western classical music and enjoyed knowledge gain through webinars and watching various documentaries in Netflix and Amazon Prime.
- We hardly watch TV shows and get most of the news from the internet. This allows us to get the information on whatever and whenever we want. I feel the information overload from TV is sometimes detrimental to the mental health of elderly and is a strain on the eyes.
- We live simply and so do not have much desire to shop. Besides, the mail order system has allowed us to get anything we want in Phaltan. Normally in the past we would go to Pune for purchasing them. Only for getting fruits, vegetables and groceries did we go for shopping in Phaltan town once or twice a week.
- Living in rural areas surrounded with greenery provides a salubrious environment for walking and other easy outdoor activities. This is healthy for elderly people’s bodies and minds.
- We have been blessed with good health and so during the past year did not have the need for visiting doctors or the hospital. I am an amateur homeopath and most of the minor ailments, both for us and our staff, were treated with homeopathy. For elderly, the biggest crisis during the pandemic came when critical care was required for some serious medical problems. Very few doctors and hospitals were available during the pandemic for non-COVID treatments.
Thus if I have to “pontificate” on how to cope with such pandemics and lockdowns here are a few points.
- Cultivate the habit of entertaining yourself. This is not an easy thing but comes with long years of discipline to think, reflect, and write.
- Be active physically by doing housework, garden work and just going for long walks.
- Eat healthy food in moderation. In general the pandemic made people eat more and that too unhealthy food and gain weight. In our case the physical activity of housework made us loose weight (~ almost 3-4 kg).
- Think about positive things.