"Though today’s news is very serious you don’t have to keep rubbing it in"

Jolie speaks to her mum, who is in her 80s, about the impact of COVID-19 and whether she has any words of wisdom to share.

Left to right: Jolie and her mum now, Jolie and her mum in the 60s

I was speaking to my mum, Pam, from my South London home last night. She lives in Hastings. She was making me laugh while describing a piece she was watching about someone in later life on her local South East news.

Such media coverage may mark a bit of a shift. Perhaps COVID-19 will highlight issues of loneliness and the importance of social connectiveness for people in later life.

Previously I have found the coverage of the deaths from COVID-19 very upsetting, X died, they were old and the had an underlying health condition. Both my mum and my mother in law are in their eighties and both have numerous underlying health conditions.

My mum who has very bad arthritis lives on her own. After being seriously ill five years ago she only goes out to the hairdresser or a hospital appointment. I thought it would be interesting to find out her perspective on the media coverage. Also, to hear about her lived experience on self-isolating as she is quite the expert on this.

Jolie’s conversation with her mum: Coronavirus outbreak and later life

As someone in later life what have you made of the media coverage about the spread of COVID-19?

To me the media coverage seems rather over the top and there’s been too much detail. In the past there wasn’t such a worldwide coverage of any news. Although today’s news is very serious, this does not mean that the media must keep rubbing it in. I think too much news does make people of my generation feel apprehensive and anxious.

How do you structure your days? What are the things you enjoy and what’s difficult?

At 87, I enjoy reading very much, I read up to five books a week. I have less energy and patience for housework these days.

It’s difficult being physically far from family. Social isolation is hard to manage, but I do feel lucky that I have on average four or more phone calls a day from my family.

What does COVID-19 mean for you?

Because I had pneumonia 5 years ago this virus is a real threat for me. We won’t get to see each other for some time now because it would be unwise for all our health and myself especially. The older I get the more nervous of these things I become.

Any words of wisdom for people who are going to be living like you have for the last 5 years?

As someone who mainly stays in, I think people need to think of ways to entertain themselves other than television and screens.

Jolie’s reflection on the conversation with her mum

It’s been strange for me having this conversation just before Mother’s Day with you mum, as you have never been keen on celebrating it. The reason for that is because it was not how you were brought up.

At a time when there is going to be a greater distance than usual between many mothers and their children and of course ourselves, it’s been lovely to have this conversation together and to understand what’s like to be in later life on the receiving end of this coverage.

Wishing all mothers who are celebrating in unusual circumstances a Happy Mother’s Day.

The Mental Health Foundation is part of the national mental health response providing support to address the mental health and psychosocial aspects of the Coronavirus outbreak, alongside colleagues at Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care.

How to look after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak