I did find a similar article in the New York Times but it's not as detailed as the Time essay - and I am relying on - ahem! - my memory about the original article.
At 93, Sister Nicolette Welter still reads avidly, recently finishing a biography of Bishop James Patrick Shannon. She knits, crochets, plays rousing card games and, until a recent fall, was walking several miles a day with no cane or walker.
I was driven to write this by a visit to an old friend yesterday who is in a third level care home. She is 93 and until the last year or so was taking care of herself in her own home. Reading and playing complex card games and knitting sweaters for her pensioner sons. Then one of her sons died. And the family hadn't told her he was dying. And this shoved her over the edge into mental disarray which has remained.
My grandmother, then in her seventies, was similarly afflicted when my mother died. Within a short period she retreated to an alternative world where Mum was still with us and Granny, our darling granny, never surfaced again.
My aunt, a bridge playing, golfing entrepreneur in her nineties, vanished into her own bottomless dark hole when her youngest child died at 49.
As to my friend, she is like a skeleton in a wheelchair, her caustic P&V with which we were all familiar has vanished, replaced by this gaunt shell with haunted eyes and no memory of us, her former familiars, but a clear memory of her dead son visiting her yesterday.
An unknown percentage of these "long goodbye" diseases is down to circumstances surely? None of those nuns lost a child and I wonder if this has a huge bearing on our emotional and mental abilities in our later years. As I have witnessed, heartbreakingly, first hand.