COVID-19 has become, especially for the elderly, an element of social exclusion because they are considered more vulnerable, and it also reduces their voice in making decisions about their health and life, according to specialists from different disciplines.
During the round table "Resilience as an axis to face the future from the elderly. Dispositional and situational factors to overcome COVID-19 for the elderly", Marissa Vivaldo Martínez, from the Facultad de Estudios Superiores Zaragoza, said that this is due to the stigmatization discourse in which they are considered the most vulnerable, who could be more susceptible to contagion and die, and "suddenly all the attention was focused on these negative characteristics".
This exclusion can also be seen in the lack of institutional support, which is evident in the crisis itself. "We can see the structural failure of long-term care systems, the lack of economic and educational resources (the digital divide became an element of inequality), and the lack of collective empathy for older people."
Individual resilience has two aspects: protective and risk factors. Among the former are optimism, positive affect, self-esteem, social support, the pursuit of goals, altruism, or positive thinking. In the second area: anxiety, depression, stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder. At this moment, elderly people face several risk factors, but at the same time, protective factors can be developed, so that they can overcome and emerge transformed from the pandemic, the expert mentioned.
María Montero y López Lena, an academic from the School of Psychology, explained that from this science, resilience is associated with the capacity of people to face risk factors that represent an obstacle to their development, but that they can transcend and when they do, they are left with a greater capacity to manage their emotions and social resources than they had before. It is a form of growth.
In the family, it is important to promote affective and instrumental interaction; it constitutes a protective scenario, as long as it is functional, and to promote this functionality it is necessary to identify constructive interaction patterns that, among other characteristics, increase trust among the members of the family nucleus.
Some concrete actions that can contribute to the generation of the resilient ability of the elderly are: to be certain that the pandemic will be overcome; "everything in life passes, we are not going to remain in this uncertainty for long"; to maintain daily activities as much as possible, such as dressing or grooming, keeping to schedules; to carry out activities that imply a physical or mental challenge; to breathe in deeply to oxygenate the brain; and to have gratitude, that is, "to draw balances, not from what we lack, but from what we have", emphasized Montero y López Lena.
Ivonne Jagüey Camarena, from the Interdisciplinary University Seminar on Aging and Old Age, considered that identity and autonomy are two important psychosocial elements for working with the elderly. Caring for the elderly that they were at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 has been counterproductive, in the sense that "we have gone backward and taken away their voice in making decisions about their health and their lives". It is possible to go against those symbols that stereotype this sector of the population as weak, without strength, or unable to perform certain activities.
It is the importance of building environments where each person becomes a "therapeutic agent" for the other, where each person shares his or her resilience and all are strengthened together.
For Graciela Casas Torres, from the National School of Social Work (ENTS), positive emotions are relevant in the process of resilience, and they operate especially in old age. The expert mentioned the realization of a psychosocial diagnosis with elderly people in the context of COVID-19, carried out in 2020, where the aim was to analyze the situation of this sector to contribute to the improvement of their care.
Among the results of the ENTS study, with the support of the National Institute for the Elderly, carried out in social networks, are that among the negative experiences in this sector are sleep disturbance, sadness, fear of getting sick, and uncertainty.
Some older adults thought that even when the epidemiological traffic light is green, health measures should be maintained to avoid the disease; others considered that they will become aware of the value of family and friends and that there will be new ways of relating to each other. In general, it would seem that this population has a great capacity for resilience, but it should not be forgotten that there are different types of old age and that different interventions should be taken for each one of them, concluded the university professor.