Roze Rahim, a 24-year-old student, lives in Queens, New York, with her grandmother. As her primary caregiver, all Rahim can think about lately is how her grandma, who already has a host of respiratory issues, might be affected by the coronavirus.
It’s weighing on her grandmother’s mind, too.
“My grandma Shirley watches Ellen DeGeneres every single day, and there is a lot of breaking news happening throughout the show,” she said. “All day she has to sit through news about the virus not affecting younger people as much but being a huge concern for the elderly, and every day she becomes more and more stressed out.”
Recently, Rahim’s parents, who also live with them, started showing symptoms of the virus, so they had to temporarily move into the basement. Now more than ever, her grandma needs reassurance and support.
“I tell her every day I love her and we will get through this together and not to worry too much, that things will improve,” she said. “Her concerns are always about what’s going to happen if she contracts it, will she survive, will they want to keep her alive.”
In those moments, she said, she tries her best to sway her grandmother’s mind away from those concerns.
Rahim’s hardly alone in her worry. Knowing the virus seems to more seriously affect older people has complicated many of our relationships with our grandparents. Italy has experienced the highest number of deaths from the virus, in part because of about 23% of residents are 65 or older, according to The New York Times.
When confronted with those numbers, we’re also confronted with something we usually like to push far out of our minds: our grandparents’ mortality.
“As a culture, we sometimes shield younger people away from worrying about or being too concerned with death and loss,” said Allison Hart, a psychological assistant at WellspaceSF in San Francisco. “The hope is that they will only have to consider it when it’s...