By Helen Hirsh Spence
Is the end of COVID in sight, or is it just the hopefulness that comes with spring? I think it’s probably a combination of both.
Everyone seems to be talking about the ‘new normal’ and what it will look like. I tend to think of what’s ahead of us as transformative; much of it as opportunity, but not all. It will all depend on our perspectives and abilities to adjust.
Here are a few issues that concern me:
Interpersonal connection: Having been cut off from friends and loved ones for an extended period has certainly made me more appreciative of their presence and participation in my life. I miss them. I miss them terribly. Probably more than anything else, I have found that not being able to touch, hug, or not even see those with whom I’d like to spend time has been the biggest hardship.
I hear the same sentiment from others and wonder if there will be greater forgiveness for past misdeeds, follies, blunders, or will we continue to harbour the same grudges as before?
Learning and education: Teachers in some countries are more respected than in others, however, now that so many families have been forced into assisting their children with online learning, I am curious to see if there will be greater appreciation for what educators do daily. I also wonder if children who were reluctant to attend class will have had a change of heart and be genuinely glad to see their friends again in classroom settings. Will these sentiments last, or be short-lived?
Everyone touched by school systems has been thrown into forced transformation. Elementary schools, high schools, and post-secondary institutions will need to rethink how to deliver curriculum. The skills that children, youth, and adults need are vastly different than those required last century and yet much of the curriculum hasn’t kept up with the times. This became clear as the digital world took over and new competencies were needed.
Careers and jobs: The days of the one career path are long gone. The Gig Economy is likely here to stay and most young people will be expected to work in multiple capacities throughout their lives. Concurrently, they will need opportunities to return to school (college, university) to unlearn, relearn, and upskill to enter roles that do not even exist today. The pandemic has forced this paradigm shift for many around the globe.
Places of work: Will urban centers regain their commercial popularity, or will office space no longer be at a premium thanks to hybrid working arrangements? And if so, will suburban and rural environments continue to experience the boost in real estate prices with housing being at a premium?
Digital changes everything, but it also brings out the huge disparities within populations. Access to the internet is determined not only by affordability, but where you live: rural or urban; in the North or the South; and by bandwidth capacity. How many users have their own laptops, computers, tablets within one household? There are so many variables to consider.
Shopping: For those of us who like to see what we are purchasing, will we continue to buy groceries online, or will we head into markets and shops to pick our own fresh vegetables? The same applies to selecting clothes, books, etc. Will retail become a nice option, or return to its former status?
And what about housing? Will houses get bigger to accommodate multiple generations, or will bachelor condos be on the rise? Will future families consist of more children, or fewer children? Will public transportation ever replace cars in this vast country (Canada)? How will our medical systems adjust to the longevity dividend? We’ve seen the devastation that comes from ignoring the well-being of our older citizens for too long.
This is far from an exhaustive list, but these are some of the questions that I have been pondering as the pandemic progresses. The disparity between rich and poor; developed and underdeveloped countries; political strife within countries and between countries have all come closer to the surface than any other time in my seven-decade life.
These questions have been amplified with the passage of time. I know what I need to do— focus on making a difference where possible; turn off the noise and listen to my inner voice, reflect, and use my strengths as best I can. What the “new normal” looks like for me may be vastly different for others, but one thing I know for sure is that Top Sixty Over Sixty will continue to figure prominently in my life post-COVID. And I hope it will for you as well.