The world is opening up again and that’s a wonderful thing. States like New York and California have lifted all of the COVID era restrictions and life is beginning to, at least, look normal again. I know we are all anxious to stop wearing masks, to feel comfortable traveling, to reunite with friends and family and so much more. The difference between now and a few weeks ago is very visible as everywhere you go there are more people, fewer masks and little or no social distancing. In the world of older adult services, we are still limited, still wearing masks and all the rest although that, too, is beginning to ease somewhat.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to facilitate a conversation with a number of elder services providers from New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania as part of an annual conference. It was a networking session and it was, as was the rest of the conference, virtual. I wanted to help get the conversation started so I asked a few “icebreaker” questions. One of them was “Now that the world is opening up, what are you looking forward to?” I had about 50 people, all who work in long term care, and I expected a lot of responses about vacation, travel and feeling freer than we have since March 2020.
To my surprise, that’s not what I heard. Yes, some people are looking forward to seeing family but each person said they were driving, not flying, that they were “not ready” to fly. Others said they had just had their first outdoor restaurant meal and that they “weren’t quite sure” when they’d be ready to do that indoors. The contrast between their responses and what I observe in the world around us was significant and it sparked some additional conversation.
The upshot of that conversation is that, for those of us who work in elder care, those of us who have lived with the impact of COVID in a very personal way, those of us who will carry those images and memories for the rest of our lives—anxiety and uncertainty are still very present. While we may be seeing the end of this pandemic, it is not yet in our rearview mirrors, it is not yet a memory. The feelings of helplessness and desperation have changed our view of the world forever and we are not ready to let go of the caution, not ready to believe that life is, once again, back to normal.
What is the right answer? I don’t know, I don’t think anyone truly knows. It seems to me that there is a continuum from, if you will, excess safety at one end to throwing caution to the winds at the other. As is said, somewhere in the middle lies the truth. And it’s a truth and an approach we will each have to determine for ourselves.