The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on older generations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 80% of coronavirus-related deaths in the USA are above the age of 65.
Nonetheless, amidst these grim statistics are incredible stories of hope from centenarians who have defied all odds and recovered fully from the coronavirus, through an amazing display of strength, survival, and many times, spunk.
Let us take you through the stories and wisdom of these extraordinary individuals. May their experiences serve as a beacon of hope, and a reminder for us to practice proper hygiene, social distancing, and preventative measures, so that we may protect the most vulnerable among us.
A New World Order
Maria Branyas, the oldest living person in Spain at 113, and is also believed to be the world’s oldest survivor of COVID-19, The Guardian reported.
Her ordeal with the virus, however, has exposed her to the darker realities faced by her generation. Care homes in Spain, already facing a dire situation from a lack of funding, poor maintenance, and a shortage of qualified staff, were forced to care for sick residents after hospitals were overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. “They fought their whole lives and made many sacrifices so we could enjoy the quality of life we have today. They didn’t deserve to leave the world this way,” said Maria.
Nonetheless, Maria is hopeful that her 13 grandchildren will get to enjoy a better world in the future. “I hope to see a change in values. I hope for the prioritization of education, health, and research, and less on weapons and politicians.”
Maria’s daughter, Rosa Maret, says her mother isn’t one to dwell on the past. “She says it’s better not to think about these things, and that you have to keep looking forward. I think that’s why she’s lived so long.”
A Fighting Spirit
Lilian Menendez, 104, says the toughest part of recovering was being away from everyone. She stayed in isolation for 20 days at the Apex Rehab & Healthcare Center in Long Island.
Today, she has miraculously recovered from the virus. “I feel wonderful, I can kill a horse, I can kill a bull. If a bull comes at me, I’ll stab it,” she said in an interview with ABC.
She says the secret to a long life is keeping herself busy—she likes to knit and crochet. When asked what she wanted to do for her 105th birthday, she said all that she wanted was to do nothing but sleep. “At 104, what do you get excited about? Nothing,” Lilian shared.
Her nurse, Anabelle Mazochi, says Lilian fought the virus with a feisty fighting spirit. “It’s what helped her survive and tell her story. She said she won’t let get COVID-19 get her, and she fought through it.”
Doing the Right Thing
Agnes Gresen, 105, has been spared by the novel coronavirus, but she has lived long enough to remember how the Spanish Flu affected her own family, according to a report by ABC.
She was only a baby, but her family’s stories revealed to her the pain and difficulty of living through a pandemic. Her whole family, including herself, was infected, and the sickness cost her mother’s life. “She died at the age of 29.”
Today, Agnes is concerned that history could repeat itself. “Too many people are not doing what they are supposed to do, like wearing masks,” she says. “Everybody knows what it’s like out there. They know what to do, and if they know what to do, they should do it.”
To keep herself healthy, Agnes continues to live an active lifestyle. She stopped driving at 103, still exercises daily, and was able to paint her entire house at 93 years old. “If [the coronavirus] gets me, I won’t be afraid. I have God’s wisdom, and I know he will take care of me,” she says.
Love Is The Answer
Sylvia Goldsholl, 108, worked as a bookkeeper, and never married or had children, reports the New York Times. When her nieces and nephews learned that she had caught the virus, they thought it was going to be the end for their aunt.
“She has survived so much at this point. I should have known better. It seems like people who live that long have good immune systems,” says her nephew, Larry. Sylvia was never put on a ventilator or hospitalized and is now fully recovered from the virus.
Those who are close to her know her as a very spunky person. “She’s always with people, and she’s always stuck up for others. When she thinks something is unfair, she’ll speak up. She’s very feisty,” says her niece, Nancy.
Michael Brienza, an administrator for the Allendale Community for Senior Living in New Jersey where Sylvia lives, says her own family has been very supportive throughout her whole ordeal with the virus. “As [Sylvia] likes to say, love helps you get through things.”