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Commentary: The new reality that is changing our lives

Things that might have changed how we view forever

A return to how life was at the start of 2020 is perhaps a ways off.

What will the struggle be like to get back to how it was before and what might have changed forever?

We know now that touching things, being with other people and breathing the air in an enclosed space can be risky.

How quickly that awareness recedes will be different for different people. It will probably never vanish completely for anyone who lived through this year.

It could become second nature to recoil from shaking hands or touching our faces and we might all find we can’t stop washing our hands.

The comfort of being in the presence of others might be replaced by a greater comfort with those we don’t know intimately.

Instead of asking, “Is there a reason to do this online?” we’ll be asking, “Is there any good reason to do this in person?”

And we might need to be reminded and convinced that there is.

Although it is not clear what our lives will look like over the next few months, we can anticipate what challenges and opportunities are emerging as a result of this pandemic.

Steps taken to help us seniors cope by designating shopping times, for example, point out the greater risk we face.

It begs the question, what lessons will we have learned from this pandemic that will fundamentally change the way we view aging?

1. Will middle-aged people worry more about how the older generation is doing and will that change their behaviour?

2. If a decision is made for us to live in a facility, will it be a place that’s undergone more rigorous regulatory control?

3. Will more families think about adapting their houses and lifestyle to accommodate our living with them?

4. Will there be greater emphasis on seniors aging in place?

5. Will there be more regulations placed on businesses and services to accommodate more seniors?

6. Will there be new services to help seniors with their daily lives?

7. Will young people take a greater interest in their ancestry?

8. Will the Social Security safety net, be set at a level more adequate for seniors who are totally dependent on that income?

9. Will distance learning and continuing education be used at greater levels by an older generation?

10. Will there be more emphasis in the health community on geriatric medicine?

11. Will the last 20 years of our lives be considered valuable and matter as much as the first 20?  

While the challenges we are facing can be expected, none of them are new.

We have been grappling with some of these issues in one form or another for years.

And now, it seems our efforts to improve policies and programs for longer, healthier lives might be more productive as we communicate to consumers, public officials, and everyday citizens who may be more aware of what isn’t working, what is at stake, and what might be improved.

Further, we can hope that the spotlight thrown on the inequalities experienced by disadvantaged people during this crisis will bring a stronger commitment to working toward social justice and health equity.

Submitted by the Age-Friendly Committee of Olds Institute.