For some seniors, pandemic trials have brought renewal

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The pandemic has hit seniors hardest, including isolation and fear. But some older adults are finding fuel for renewed purpose and strength.
To one pastor who survived a COVID-19 diagnosis, the idea of resurrection took on new meaning. It's "an attitude of actually finding light where there's darkness, finding hope where there is despair," he says.

These adults are sometimes able to "put things in context of an entire life history" and draw on past resilience, says Lauren Gerlach, geriatric psychiatrist and assistant professor at the University of Michigan, who contributed to the report.

According to one study earlier this year, 4 out of 5 respondents ages 50 to 80 reported their mental health to be as good as, or better than, 20 years ago.

Pandemic society views older adults as a group at risk. But many have overcome labels of frailty. You can read more articles like this one in our Finding Resilience series.

From an artist who picked up her paintbrush after two decades to a senior-home resident who now can't resist serenading his neighbors, many older adults say trials in lockdown have unlocked a new chapter of personal growth.

As older adults have faced increased social isolation, health officials have defined this age group as living in pandemic precarity. Yet many have demonstrated strength and resilience.

Purple, robin's-egg blue, white. Sandra Bierman pours layers of paint onto a canvas, then tilts it so the colors run.

"This art room is a lifesaver," she says at the sink, rinsing fingers of acrylics.

Following a career in telecommunications, Ms. Bierman launched another act as a professional artist known for figurative works. She stopped painting in the early 2000s, however, to devote more time to her husband before he died.

Why We Wrote This Pandemic society views older adults as a group at risk. But many have overcome labels of frailty. You can read more articles like this one in our Finding Resilience series.

Now in her 80s, Ms. Bierman has spent the pandemic at a retirement community in Boulder, Colorado, where she grew depressed under the lockdown that began March 2020. Roughly a…
Sarah Matusek, Erika Page
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