At first, I was pleased to see all of the invitations to virtual workshops, seminars and chat groups to discuss resilience and managing anxiety in difficult times. Then as the invitations continued to pile up I started to wonder if maybe I was sending off vibes to make people think I needed to hear those messages. As I spoke to friends and family, I quickly realized they were receiving similar invites, though perhaps not to the extent I was. Then again I’m in the people business and have friends who are facilitators and coaches. The sudden surge in resilience and stress management seminars is a natural and necessary response to the times we are living through. Even if you are an old hand at managing through crisis situations, this time things are different. Until now this degree and length of isolation were unheard of, simply put, this is a first. In fact, when have we ever had a collective experience like this as a planet? We are social beasts and we don’t like being cut off. Zoom, Facetime, Skype and the like are all well and good, but they can’t replace spending real time with people.
It’s like a great social experiment in which the whole world gets to see what it’s like to live in isolation, not unlike many older adults do every day, for years. In 2018, when Britain created the new role of Minister of Loneliness, the idea was so surprising that everyone from the New York Times to CTV had something to say about it. I wonder if anyone out there still questions the wisdom of the role? Who thinks perhaps Canada and other countries should give it some thought too?
Loneliness didn’t start getting serious attention until it started to have an impact on young people. I wonder what other things we are about to discover that older adults have already learned? My bet is we will figure out that it's stressful to look for a job when you feel like there is no hope of getting one regardless of your qualifications. We’ll learn that everyone needs to have access to technology in a world where it is often the only lifeline. We’ll realize that it is hard living in a world where you become so invisible it's as if you are hidden behind a face mask. The coronavirus is hard on all of us, but I can’t help but think it will also teach us some valuable lessons.
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