Will the post-virus world be kinder to the old and vulnerable?
While living with a pandemic has been strange and difficult, it gives us an opportunity to reset attitudes and behaviours towards the older members of society. But there are many questions with unpredictable answers.
The first question of course is when will there be a post-covid world?
For those going back to work and being allowed into larger social gatherings, life could be getting back to a semblance of normality within months, if not weeks. For those, on the other hand, who continue to fear the virus because they continue to be at risk of suffering the most if they contract the disease, the future is continued self-isolation.
This divergence of experience is worrying in itself.
When all those wonderful people who have used lockdown time to make contact with the vulnerable, pick up their medicines, and do their shopping, are too busy to keep going, who will take their place? When life seems to have progressed for many, will they realise that the people they had been concerned about in the first few months of 2020 will still be needing love and support into the foreseeable future?
This isn’t about finger pointing or blaming. It’s a worry about what the future holds for our older population, and indeed any of us on the at-risk list.
An end to loneliness?
The chair of the Campaign to End Loneliness, Paul Cann, writes in his blog about how we can keep the wave of empathy going beyond the lockdown:
‘Happily, we sense that we could make the “new normal” a kinder place to live, not just a state of acceptance of long-term constraint. We could make this happen.’
He talks about maintaining kinder hyper-local communities where the big organisations can support smaller initiatives, and where service providers take the time to converse with the customers. And he would like to see challenges such as the digital divide and poverty fairly addressed. At the same time he sees an important role for the media, corporate press offices, and politicians and leaders recognise that we all have more in common than divides us.
Can we keep the momentum going?
One of the positives around lockdown is the number of community initiatives that have taken to the internet or other communications channels.
We’ve seen gym instructors taken to Zoom and YouTube to run their classes – and remember to include exercise for the older and less mobile. The Royal Voluntary Service has created a virtual ‘Village Hall’ to continue meetings and share creative ideas online. There’s been a surge of groups learning new skills and developing old ones – from making banana bread to sewing scrubs for health workers.
It would be wonderful if the ‘new normal’ means that this greater access to the outside world remains in place for those who find it difficult to get out. But once gyms are active again, and community centres open their doors, will there be time and energy to keep real and virtual activities running together?