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Asking for Your Help in Participating in a Study About Vibrant Older Adults

As part of my work co-leading the Working Group on Older Adults and Caregivers of the American Psychological Association Interdivision COVID-19 Task Force, I have helped to create and am participating in a research study on the experiences of older adults during and following the coronavirus pandemic. The purposes of the study, and why I believe it is necessary and important, are explained in more detail below. I am writing now to ask you to participate in the study by completing its online questionnaire, and thank each of you who will dedicate the 30-40 minutes needed to do so. I know it is a significant ask, but if we don’t do it, we will not have the information we need in order to change perceptions, practices and policies related to people like ourselves.

Please click on this link to fill out the study’s online questionnaire, and please help me by sending the link to others who might agree to fill it out.  The information provided will be used for statistical purposes only, and remains anonymous (even to me); the data are processed and kept confidential by the online research software Qualtrics.

Thanking you in advance,

                     Irit Felsen


The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken our perception of what it means to be older than 60. Until then, many of us felt that “60 is the new 40”, but the early months of the pandemic changed that, and highlighted the vulnerability of older adults to the coronavirus pandemic. The efforts to avoid contracting COVID-19 imposed particularly restrictive social distancing, disruption of life and isolation among those older than 60, who were strongly advised to shelter at home and maintain strict social distancing, and to avoid contact with anyone not living in the same household.

In private conversations, many of us expressed the difficulties associated with the inability to get together with adult children who were not living with their parents, the toll that isolation from friends and colleagues took, and the pain experienced by grandparents separated from their grandchildren. Remaining professionally and socially active required adapting quickly to online platforms and struggling with the hardships of getting used to the new technologies. How did the enormous changes to the way we lived impact our perception of ourselves as older adults, what were the unique vulnerabilities and challenges that the recent, unprecedented circumstances brought to light about what it means to be an active, vibrant, older adult in the 21st century, not only during the pandemic, but also beyond?

I believe that there is a lot that can be learned from the profound social and cultural problems that came to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in relation to it, and Ageism is one of these issues. In a society focused on staying young, older adults who are still active and engaged in professional and social activities don’t think of themselves as older. Until the pandemic, “older adults” was a term that was used to describe people not necessarily according to their chronological age, but rather to indicate physical or cognitive frailty, the loss of the ability to continue to actively engage in occupational and social life, and the loss of independence. We have to change this connotation, and recognize the demographic changes that has been referred to as “the greying of America”. Improved longevity and quality of life of older adults is reflected in great diversity within the wide population of cohorts older than 60. There is a great age span within this population, and a great individual variability in health status and levels of social engagement.

Life expectancy in the USA has risen over the recent decades from 67 in 1950, which is the current age of retirement, to 78 at present time, and many of those older than 78 continue to be relatively well, live independently, and remain engaged in professional, academic and social activities, even if they do suffer from some physical ailments. Many retired adults continue to work past retirement, for fee or not for fee, contributing their expert knowledge and experience in the family and in other contexts. Older is no longer “over the hill”, but our social constructs have not yet caught up with the new realities of changing demographics.

Active, vibrant older adults must become a group deserving professional and social attention, rather than a group that tries to ‘pass’ as younger. Just as adolescence became an important life phase rather than a brief transition from childhood to adulthood, so vibrant, active older adulthood has to become differentiated from the traditional concepts of “old age”. This new phase in the adult life span can last a significant number of years, and has unique characteristics of its own. We must recognize the unique challenges that this life phase involves, and develop practices as well as a social and cultural atmosphere that will support the ability of older adults to continue to be active and to contribute to society when situations such as the pandemic require social distancing, or when personal circumstances interfere with their ability, temporarily or more permanently, to do things in the way that they were able to do before.

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