How the pandemic has changed my life

Ruth Griffiths

Two years ago, I was terrified about the novel corona virus that was sweeping the globe. We had little knowledge about this deadly new virus. Today we know quite a bit about SARS-Cov-2 and the disease it causes in humans… Covid-19. This new disease has seriously affected of people we know and love but the pandemic has created more than physical illness; it has changed the way we live our daily lives.

One of those changes is the direct result of the protective isolation most seniors underwent in 2020. You will see by my photo with this column that I have stopped dying my hair and have allowed its natural colour to be revealed. It wasn’t the pandemic that turned me grey… I knew it was getting there all along. But when it was impossible to visit my beloved hairdresser for a few months, I began to see the full force of aging on my hair colour. I decided to let the dye grow out and decide if I liked the new “old” me. My hairdresser said many of her faithful clientele have done the same thing.

I also stopped using makeup most of the time. True, I might have applied lipstick before a Zoom meeting, but for the most part makeup was no longer necessary. I live alone and wear a mask when I am out of the house. Nobody sees my face much anymore… except in my column photo.

On Facebook I learned that many women my age have given up wearing a bra most of the time. Many women feel more comfortable without tight foundation garments. Comfort was everything during lockdown when pyjamas became the uniform of the work-from-home crew. Comfort has always been a must for women of a certain age. We have too many other stressors in our lives… think arthritis pain, loss of hearing and what was that other thing? Elastic waist jeans, XL shirts and fluffy socks are much preferred when you have nowhere to go and nobody to see. You might call it dressing for distress.

Fear of going out is another lingering consequence of pandemic isolation. After staying home for many weeks listening to fearful news it feels somehow dangerous to go out. We wanted to see others and resume our usual activities but we felt slightly anxious about getting out of the house.

Social isolation can negatively affect people of all ages, but the effects of isolation may be more pronounced in elderly people. Some say the negative effects of isolation because of Covid-19 is a global challenge. Psychologist Louise Hawkley at University of Chicago says isolation is linked to adverse health outcomes including depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity at every stage of life.

Many people report “brain fog” as a lingering symptom of Covid-19 infection. But isolation alone can lead to changes in our behaviour and ability to cope with daily life. We may struggle with planning, problem-solving, organization and time management. It’s like we’ve aged a decade during the past two years.

I’m known for finding the silver lining in most things, even if it’s the silver hair hidden under my usual hair dye. The isolation of pandemic has given us the opportunity to find out what really matters in our daily lives. We have identified our true friends who stuck with us throughout long dark months of depressing isolation. We know the activities that bring joy to our lives and those things we can live without. If wisdom comes with age, we have certainly accumulated a lot of wisdom during this pandemic.