Opinion

Thanks to Coronavirus, It Seems 60 Isn’t the New 40

An elderly woman wears her mask near the cherry blossoms at the Yuyuantan Park in Beijing, March 26, 2020.
Ng Han Guan/AP

One of the more fascinating, brutal tidings that Mr. Covid brought along is the apparently inevitable conclusion that humanity is on the brink of a “consciousness revolution” that will undermine the way we, 60 years old and upward, will henceforth view age.

I feel cheated. The botox-injected, narcissistic obsession of our pre-corona era for a maximum life expectancy was a Sisyphean struggle by all of us to cheat death and stay young for ever. We have borrowed flesh from our thigh to renew our cheek, harnessing ourselves to the perverted commercialization like post-postmodern slaves trapped in the empty New Age ethos.

This pseudo-passion has now been replaced by existential anxiety. Along comes Mr. Covid and he wants to whip us on the other cheek as well, the one that hasn’t yet undergone surgery.

In the name of the fake life expectancy ritual that the modern world has sold us, we almost believed that we really would live forever. At last we’d reached the coveted age after years of troubles and hardships, and now we’re in fact “starting our life”: a second career, late self-discovery, rebirth, blah blah blah. We wallowed in the illusion that we were beating the system, that it’s cool to be old, if you have the right body and the jogging and all that groove, up to your elbows. Yeah, right.

One “corona party” and we’re out. They put us in the long line of condemned folk, those who will take over the ventilators. You young ones are waving to us on Zoom, waving the balcony shtick, singing us serenades in the boulevard – it’s all so loathsome and banal. As long as we were useful to the gigantic, corrupt food chain economy, which was entirely mobilized to prolong our lives, it seemed to be working. Who asked you for any of this, anyway?

The corona party chooses us – to die. Turns out there isn’t really joy in age. Sixty is reverting to that age in which you’re seen as the old person you were always supposed to be – a redundant excess, a burden, a nudnik – if you will, an annoying boomer. No more is 60 the new 40. No more “forever young.” In 2020, a 60-year-old is that old guy who should be banished to the penal colony. Someone who’s about to die and is a burden to the young, potent, healthy society of those immune to the virus, whole life is before them. Wave to us from the balcony and don’t forget to leave a will. We want to continue living.

Covid is changing with an almost quantum speed our grandiose plans. It’s here, the deus-ex-machina that forces us to reset everything.

In some strange way, I’m ready for this. Years of being an outsider and an ascetic, of voluntary isolation, misanthropy and real germophobia may not have made me an easier going person, but they did prepare me for corona with a (laser) lantern in my hand. I’ll leave the other hand free to wave from the balcony.

But apparently, although I came to it a so-called elderly, prepared creature, a sharp pain sears me relentlessly. I’m worried. I’m very worried. Not about not staying young forever. About existensital exile, about the acute loneliness of so many older people, sitting alone within silent walls, with no one going in or out. Only Mr. Covid shows up, unannounced, knocks and enters. Enters and smites. And leaves.

The writer is a screenwriter, film teacher, poet and author.