D is an American friend of mine who can speak 4 foreign languages and travels the world throughout his life. He is 86 years old this year. He used to be the coach of an Olympic sport and also brought out a world champion. He worked until he was 84 years old before he retired completely. He has a long and brilliant career. Although, he himself does not think so.
In terms of age, D is considered a healthy old man, he can walk without hindrance and can still drive. He has a generous pension. Before the epidemic, he can visit relatives and friends, listen to operas, watch movies, and go out of restaurants. Moreover, D's spiritual life is rich and profound. He loves reading, thinking, and has profound knowledge in literature, history and philosophy. But he thinks he has no contribution to mankind.
Now, he lives in a nursing home with fairly good conditions. He lives in a one-bedroom and two-living house, accompanied by a cat, and takes care of his daily diet and all kinds of chores.
Perhaps many people think that D's life is successful and happy, but D is very depressed mentally.
He suffers from severe insomnia and can only sleep for three to four hours for several days. He often has nightmares, can't sleep at night, and has bad energy during the day, and his diet and activities are affected. He also suffers from severe depression. He often stares at the wall motionlessly for several hours, not knowing the meaning of life, and often has suicidal thoughts.
In the past month, I had many in-depth conversations with him. I found that most of D’s pain is related to this specific age group and has a universality beyond culture. Longevity is the desire of many people. However, even for people like D, old age is not so easy. It is worth paying attention to children and carers who care about the mental health and happiness of the elderly. As Atu Gwende, author of "The Best Farewell," said, old age is a series of loss and decline.
D’s wife has been dead for many years. Five years ago, his proud son died of cancer. A person who lives longer than his partner and children will inevitably suffer the pain of bereavement. His wife suffered from Alzheimer's disease in his later years. In the last few years, D had to send her to a nursing home because she could not take care of it. Since her death, D often feels that he has not fulfilled his responsibilities, and guilt and regret haunt him like a poisonous snake. Especially recently, he feels memory decline, often forgetting things, thinking that he might also become a patient with Alzheimer's disease, and his wife's state before the end of life, he feels panicked and anxious.
Although the conditions of the nursing home are good, D has never accepted the life here. Like many elderly people, he feels that he is "waiting for death" when he arrives in a nursing home. This place is full of elderly people sitting in wheelchairs, and people die every month, and the atmosphere is depressing. He refuses to think that he belongs here, keeps a distance from those around him, and has not made a friend for many years.
Despair and sense of meaninglessness clouded D's mind. He felt that he had no contribution to society. He was a little excited only when he talked about his previous career, but, he said, it was just passing by. Someone continues to do his work, and others do well, or even better. He lamented that once he died, no one would remember him within two months.
As Catherine Mannix, the author of "Farewell" and a British palliative medicine expert who accompanied thousands of dead, said, fear of being forgotten is a universal anxiety at the end of life, and it is natural to want to leave a legacy. . Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, discovered that depression is related to negativity and helplessness. Taking action and doing constructive and meaningful things can help resist emptiness, boredom, and get rid of depression.
Fortunately, sympathetic, non-judgmental listening creates a safe space. After D confided his distress and anxiety, he realized that some of the problems he faced could only accept, and some could only let go. He ate three meals a day on time, increased exercise and social interaction, set a schedule for work and rest, and learned to meditate. I re-evaluated my past experience with an objective eye, seeing my own success, and forgiving and accepting my own shortcomings.
D decided to create and record the history, anecdotes and insights of the sport he participated in for more than half a century. This idea excites him.