How a 104-year-old Survived Coronavirus

William “Bill” Lapschies, a 104-year-old World War II veteran, has recovered from coronavirus, making him the oldest survivor of the pandemic in the United States. Two others in their 100’s also survived–one in Italy and one in China.

Bill, who also survived the Spanish flu, reportedly recovered from coronavirus just in time for his 104th birthday. He came down with symptoms of the virus on March 5 and was isolated in his room at the nursing home where he resides. On March 11, a test came back positive for COVID-19. Luckily, his doctors said he only had a mild case of coronavirus and did not develop respiratory symptoms that might have required the use of a ventilator.

Coronavirus has been a major concern of health experts as the deadly virus has been spreading among seniors in some long-term care facilities. Seniors are at a much higher risk of facing more serious illness from the disease. The nursing home where Bill lives has seen 16 coronavirus cases among residents and two deaths.

A Positive Attitude Promotes Healing

Asked how he survived, Lapschies, who is a loving great-grandfather with a fun, easygoing, positive personality said with a laugh: “I don’t know. … It just went away. Sit out here and you can get rid of anything.”

According to research, staying positive can put you in a better position to heal your body. If you’re constantly worrying and focusing on negative aspects of your life, it’s easy for you to enter a sympathetic state. This state (which is sometimes referred to as “fight-or-flight” mode) can increase tension and levels of inflammation throughout the body. Being in that state is not conducive to recovery.

Maintaining a positive attitude can help you improve your mood and avoid mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, which many are experiencing due to being isolated in their homes or their rooms at skilled care facilities. If you’re able to focus on the good things in your life, you may be less likely to succumb to feelings of sadness and worry. Bill was lucky to have a mild case of coronavirus, but at the same time, his overall positivity, his will to live, and his attitude when in quarantine may have played a role in his overcoming it.

Focus on the Positive to Live Longer

Approximately 150 million Americans have been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Of that 150 million, roughly 100 million have been diagnosed with more than one. If you are among the seniors who have a chronic and/or debilitating illness, you know how difficult it can be to manage daily tasks such as going to the grocery store or even getting dressed.

When you’re struggling with pain, fatigue, and other chronic disease symptoms, maintaining a positive attitude is probably the last thing on your mind. After all, how are you supposed to focus on positivity when so many things seem to be going wrong? Although it may feel easier to focus on the negative instead of the positive, shifting your mindset could actually help you improve your condition and minimize your symptoms.

Shifting Your Mindset

According to the Mayo Clinic, your attitude has a direct effect on your health. One of the primary areas affected is your stress level. Optimistic people manage their stress more effectively. This means that all of the negative effects of stress, such as increased blood pressure, are greatly reduced in positive people.

Believe it or not, your outlook on life may have a direct effect on a number of health factors. Happier people tend to have lower levels of inflammation, lower cholesterol levels, and a reduced chance of developing cardiovascular disease. These benefits alone should make a positive disposition more appealing for everyone, regardless of their age.

Think Positively to Stave Off Dementia

TIME magazine recently shared research from the Yale School of Public Health where scientists at Yale have discovered a direct link between how one feels about aging, and how well our brains ward off dementia. The study, which took 25 years to complete, showed that people with a negative perspective of aging tended to have a higher chance of developing dementia, while people who viewed aging as a normal and natural part of life seemed to have much lower occurrences of the disease.

Psychology Today published an article claiming that a positive attitude about aging can also reduce frailty in seniors. Frailty has been directly linked to lower cognitive abilities, and can often lead to dementia.

Choose joy. Because yes, it is a choice!

So, what does a positive attitude look like? Contrary to what some people believe, it’s not about ignoring problems or refusing to deal with life’s troubles. People with a positive outlook still face struggles and challenges. The difference lies in how they choose to think about those issues.
Here are some things that positive people do:

  • Practice gratitude: They’re grateful for what they have, and don’t spend time lamenting what they don’t have.
  • Positive self-talk: They don’t call themselves names when they make mistakes, or label themselves with negative titles.
  • Spend time with other happy people: They spend time with others who feed their positivity, and avoid those who try to bring them down.
  • Forgive: Whether it’s forgiving themselves, or forgiving others, letting go of grudges and resentments makes a big difference to how happy one can be.
  • Focus on the positive: They make a conscious choice to look for the best in a situation, or expect the best possible outcome. They also focus on the good in people instead of focusing on their shortcomings.
  • Manage stressors: Take extra care to manage the stressors in your life. It’s impossible to be totally stress-free, but you can take steps to minimize unwanted stressors. When you do feel yourself starting to get stressed out, take a step back and ask yourself why you’re feeling this way. Then, evaluate whether or not you can change the situation. If you can change it, do. If you can’t, look for ways to cope with that stressor and view it in a more positive light. For details on how to relieve stress during the coronavirus pandemic, please read our recent article on the subject.
  • Find Ways to Help Others: One way to be of service to others is to help others in need.
  • Be good to yourself: Take time every day to do something nice for yourself. Sometimes, this can be a big thing such as buying a lift chair that makes standing up easier. Other times, it can be as simple as spending five minutes sitting outside in the sunshine.
    Meditate: For many people, meditation is a way to reduce stress. According to Matthew Thorpe, MD, PhD, there are at least 11 scientific-based reason to meditate.

1. Stress reduction
2. Anxiety control
3. Emotional health promotion
4. Self-awareness enhancement
5. Attention span improvement
6. Reduction of age-related memory loss
7. Increased kindness
8. Addiction control
9. Sleep improvement
10. Pain control
11. Decreased blood pressure


There are many different types of meditation and ways to get started, including free and paid smartphone apps, guided meditations on the internet, including thousands on YouTube and other video sites. Click here for a free handbook on different types of meditations.

Aging with a Happy Heart

Beyond maintaining a positive outlook, older adults can stay active and engaged in a lifestyle that promotes joyful living. Right now, seniors can go outside and work in their garden or go for a walk around the neighborhood, all while maintaining their distance from neighbors. Once the coronavirus pandemic is over, community events, wellness programs, spending time with family and friends, learning a new skill or language, and focusing on life enrichment activities can be an important part of everyday life once again

Americans are Living Longer — Plan for the Future

Americans are living longer lives with better medical care and preventive care. The U.S. population over the age of 65 has doubled since 1980, and if current trends continue, the U.S. population over the age of 80 will triple by 2050. In fact, children born today are very likely to live to 100.

Remember, as you are being more positive and maximizing your longevity, it is also a good idea to plan for your future and for your loved ones. The Farr Law Firm is dedicated to helping protect seniors by preserving dignity, quality of life, and financial security. If you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning, or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please call us to make an appointment for an initial consultation. For those who feel safer in their homes, we of course offer phone appointments or video conference appointments in lieu of in-person meetings:

Elder Care Attorney Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Care Attorney Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Care Attorney Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Care Attorney DC: 202-587-2797

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.