I have been gathering all manner of articles on how the pandemic will impact the future of aging or how will it re-invent the senior housing industry. It has forced me to rethink my introduction to my course on Staying Independent in Your Home that I will teach either online or in person this fall.
There is the very big picture, will retirees no longer want to downsize to that nice little apartment in town so they can walk to restaurants and entertainment. Despite the flurry of advertising by different senior living communities that pledge to keep you safe – trust has gone out the window for many. Congregate living is just that. Group meals, activities and even riding the elevators must be strictly limited when there is a mortal fear of contagion.
A friend recently told me her senior apartment complex has had no cases of Covid-19. That is most fortunate, but the way it was accomplished in part was to take away all the benches in front of the building and removed every couch from the lobby and community room. There already are no group meals and no group activities beyond resident meetings. The need to socialize is innate. The need to have contact does not fade with age it is always more difficult to achieve. So they had to take away the benches.
In a recent AARP publication I read the opinion that aging in place will evolve to be a quest for aging with extra space. Is there no longer safety in numbers. If you take away one of the major draws of group living, in that you will not be alone, what is left?
A year from now hopefully with a sizable portion of the population properly vaccinated – the whole perspective could again be skewed. But in what direction? If we are ultimately to stay apart in person, we will have to find other ways to be together. Will we have to become like younger generations that exist together online in their waking consciousness?
Maybe it is time to re-invent the park bench.