In Kerala, following the precepts of the ancients, the novel coronavirus gives due respect to age. Amidst a surge in infections, the state has reported astonishing survival stories of people who are vulnerable due to their age. There was jubilation when a couple aged 93 and 88 recovered and returned to their homes from the Kottayam Medical College. Then Asma Beevi of Kollam, aged 105, told the Grim Reaper where he got off. She is the oldest COVID survivor in the state, but not far behind is Purakkatt Veettil Pareed, aged 103, who has just been discharged from the Government Medical College Hospital in Kochi, emerging in a snappy black sweatshirt of the sort favoured by people one-fifth his age.
There were so many scare scenarios current in the early days of the pandemic, when the spread of the contagion was still poorly understood. Among those anxieties was the very real apprehension about its effect on the elderly, most of whom are compromised by age-related disorders. But the coronavirus is unpredictable, does not seem to respect logic. It has brought low young people while sparing many among the elderly, who were believed to be at maximum risk.
The demographic dividend is attributed to the young, and values energy over experience. The survival of the elderly, including centenarians, reminds us that these attributes are not absolute. Indeed, the ageing need far more grit than the young when they face a foe whose powers remain largely unknown. And every survival in the oldest cohort is an exhortation, reminding us that we must not underestimate our resilience — the human factor which makes all the difference.