© 2022 GALKIN Konstantin Alexandrovich

2022 – № 1(23)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.33876/2224-9680/2022-1-23/11

Citation link:

Galkin K.A. (2022) Osobennosti telesnogo opyta perezhivaniya pandemii pozhilymi zhitelyami v Sankt-Peterburge i Petrozavodske [Features of the Bodily Experience of the Pandemic Experienced by Elderly Residents in St. Petersburg and Petrozavodsk], Meditsinskaya antropologiya i bioetika [Medical Anthropology and Bioethics], № 1(23).

Konstantin Alexandrovich Galkin

Candidate of Sociological Sciences,

Senior Researcher at the Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences –

Branch of the Federal Research Sociological Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences



E-mail: Kgalkin1989@mail.ru

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic, elderly people, physicality, urban spaces, features of urban spaces during the pandemic, somatic modes of bodies during the pandemic, interactions with spaces during the pandemic, phenomenology, consequences of the pandemic for the elderly, everyday life during the pandemic

Abstract: Elderly people during the COVID-19 pandemic found themselves in a situation of personal insecurity associated with problems of medical care, as well as various difficulties with the treatment of chronic diseases.  The forced isolation of elderly people caused deterioration of their health – both psychological and physiological, caused difficulties with the manifestation of their activity. The study uses a phenomenological approach, which aims to demonstrate how the bodily sensations of the pandemic of older people change, transform the features of their lives, the specifics of the perception of coronavirus restrictions. The empirical material for the article was interviews with elderly people, which were collected in St. Petersburg and Petrozavodsk. The study examines two key contexts: the context of disciplining bodies in urban spaces defined by the pandemic, and the context of the logic of receiving medical care and caring for elderly people about themselves. The main conclusion of the study is the identification of various fears of the elderly, which are associated with isolation and new discipline of the bodies, as well as due to the fact that the old logic of receiving care and medical care ceases to work.

A partial translation of the article

Elderly people during the COVID -19 pandemic have found themselves in a situation of personal insecurity associated with medical care problems, as well as various difficulties in managing chronic diseases, minimizing pain, special bodily sensations, and somatic body regimens. You can also talk about the difficulties with the purchase of medicines and products, the limited overall urban space associated with the isolation of the elderly, and problems in their social security system. Thus, the forced isolation of the elderly caused a deterioration in both the psychological and physiological health of the elderly themselves, caused difficulties in the manifestation of their activity, and created an active debate around understanding the concept of active aging, the concept of age, the role of age and activities of older people during the period of self-isolation and undertaken total restrictions.

In this paper, I focus on considering the features of the experience of the pandemic by older people in the context of their bodily sensations and feelings of self-isolation and its meanings, possible limitations. As part of the research, interviews were conducted with elderly people from St. Petersburg and Petrozavodsk: the elderly themselves spoke about the peculiarities of their bodily feelings of isolation, loneliness, and loss of control over the body during the pandemic. All elderly people had various chronic diseases and somatic difficulties associated with them.

Unlike many gerontological and sociological types of research, which, as a rule, consider the context of loneliness or lonely living of older people during a pandemic (while loneliness is understood in this situation more as a psychological problem), I consider the experience of self-isolation and pandemic by older people, focusing first of all, on the physicality and practices of experiencing a pandemic as special conditions for the bodies of older people who have certain somatic difficulties, as well as chronic diseases. This makes it possible to combine both the features of spaces and the features of the psychological and physical health of older people, the experience of older people with the corresponding difficulties associated with isolation.

Methodology and empirical base

The methodological framework of this article are ethnological methods and ethnographic research, which were carried out in two cities: the federal city of St. Petersburg and a large regional city – Petrozavodsk. The main method is interviews with older people, during which the older people themselves talked about the features and meanings, as well as bodily sensations and somatic difficulties that arose during the COVID -19 pandemic. A total of 30 interviews were collected with older people from two locations. All informants were aged 65 to 90 years and had various chronic diseases, mainly cardiovascular diseases. systems that were obtained predominantly before the pandemic. The education and professions of my informants were quite different, but all of my informants were not working at the time of the pandemic and were retired. During interviews, research participants were asked questions about the difficulties they experienced bodily during the COVID -19 pandemic. Also, additionally, participants were asked questions about certain bodily difficulties with psychological and physical health that existed during the pandemic.

Main conclusions:

 The stories of older people living in the federal city of St. Petersburg and Petrozavodsk testify that bodies do not live and are located in abstract spaces, but in meaningful spaces within which all everyday interactions, everyday life itself, take place. It can be concluded that the very space of the city for the elderly consists of bodily freedom associated with the opportunity to meet friends, visit the right store, museum, exhibition, or pharmacy, where there is the necessary remedy for the treatment and minimization of pain associated with chronic diseases. The self-isolation created by the pandemic, as well as the disorientation in the spaces of cities, testifies that the spatiotemporal reality of the city is changing as the ability to dispose and control one’s body in space decreases, and also as the possibilities for implementing one’s plans change. and activities to maintain health itself, which is noticeably reduced in urban space during the COVID -19 pandemic.

The restrictions of COVID -19, therefore, affected the very strategies of older people and their interaction with spaces. They also influenced the possibilities of using spaces, as it was before the pandemic, for their health, for the treatment of a sick body, or a body experiencing various somatic difficulties. Spaces familiar to older people become alien and inaccessible, therefore, they create many problems associated with their use and the feeling of bodily freedom in such spaces.

Another important concern that develops in older people during the COVID -19 pandemic are the concerns about their health, as well as the problem of an uncontrolled body, subject to situational medical care as the only possibility with no alternative help during the COVID -19 pandemic. The various limitations and special physical regimens of the elderly associated with various chronic diseases have a serious impact on the mental health of the elderly. Thus, the various restrictions associated with the pandemic are creating a series of fears and concerns for the elderly. And such fears can be presented as a kind of continuum, on one side of which there are fears of isolation during the COVID -19 pandemic and, as a result, physical and psychological limitations associated with isolation, and on the other side, biological fears that exist in spaces and subjugate bodies of older people to specific spaces (such fears include: fears of contracting a virus; fears associated with the need to take all precautions; fears associated with distrust of medical services and the impossibility of treatment of the disease by older people in case of infection; unwillingness to give their own body “for control” medical services).

At the same time, living in a family, emotional support from family members, close communication with them, as shown by the research, can minimize and “smooth out” the problem of an uncontrolled body, the situational problems when seeking medical help during the COVID -19 pandemic. Another important feature that the pandemic creates is the discourse regarding old age, the perception of the elderly themselves, as well as the sick body and bodies with various somatic difficulties. The situation of the pandemic, the biological understanding of the age, body, and diseases of the elderly as a frail state, changes and inverts the popular concept of active aging, which is wide enough and used everywhere to include and integrate older people into social life. The situation of isolation and medical restrictions created by the pandemic, on the contrary, focuses attention on the body of older people as sickly and infirm, in need of isolation, which creates additional psychological problems for older people and will certainly be the subject of many future works devoted to the consideration of health and age.


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