Living on your own terms

In May, the Administration for Community Living leads the national observance of Older Americans Month. This year’s theme, Age My Way, celebrates the strength of older adults and the many ways they stay resilient – involved, committed, and connected to their communities. At no time was this resiliency more remarkable than during the coronavirus pandemic. Evidence suggests that older adults were physically most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, and many experienced short periods of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Yet, research also shows that older adults as a group were more resilient to mental health disorders than younger people, and that maintaining friendships and connections to others helped older adults build resilience and reduce stress.   

The popular Golden Girls TV series theme song, “Thank you for being a friend,” written by Cindy Fee, may offer some insight as to why some older adults were able to stay positive amid all the stress and chaos of the pandemic. A lifetime of experience and perspective and connections to friends, old and new, helped many older adults through the most difficult periods of isolation and loneliness. It certainly helped Barbara Hillman.

At age 80, Barbara stays physically fit by working out on her treadmill three times a week.  She also works part-time for Boston Senior Home Care, which provides opportunities for her to stay active, involved, and up to date on new technology.  “During the pandemic, learning about Zoom was the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” said Barbara. “Zoom helped me to stay in regular contact with my friends and family. It was so important for me to talk with and actually see my friends as well as my children and grandchildren. It kept us all close.” 

Barbara is also active in St. Paul AME church, where she has been a member of the congregation for more than 45 years. “I serve on a committee that welcomes new members to the church and I help them learn about programs they can get involved in,” explains Barbara. “Throughout the pandemic, I stayed in touch with all new members, providing guidance and answering questions. I love meeting new people and staying active and involved in my faith community has always been important to me.”

Participation in activities, connections to others, and the wisdom and resilience of age, all played a role in Barbara’s ability to thrive in her unique way despite the pandemic’s hardships. Her resilience is truly an inspiration to us all.