During the pandemic, we found ourselves isolated to the confines of our homes. If we were lucky, we had a partner, maybe even a family, to share these stay-at-home orders. It was nice not to have to be alone during what would end up being a very scary time in our lives.
Prior to the pandemic, this serious problem already existed for older adults: They were experiencing social isolation and loneliness at an exceedingly high rate of growth.
This is not just a senior issue anymore. Over the past 16 months this issue has affected children, teenagers, young adults and mature adults. This experience of social isolation hit all of us. We learned very quickly that social isolation and loneliness were an equal opportunity offender. Seniors were among the most vulnerable populations, but all of us were affected in one way or another and we had to figure out how to exist in this new world.
There were also many innovations in science, and the adoption of new technologies and streamlining of processes helped alleviate the situation.
If there is one thing that we can all be thankful for, it is that this happened in a time when we have made advances in both technology and science. Imagine if this happened 30 years earlier in 1990.
We could not have developed a vaccine so quickly then. It would have taken at least four years to develop a vaccine from start to finish in 1990, and Messenger RNA vaccinations had not even been developed.
The way we connect now is also very different. Now, we live in a day and age where nearly everyone can connect via personal computers, internet, Zoom calls, email and Amazon Prime. These things simply did not exist back in 1990.
For those that sheltered by themselves, or with a partner or family, the effect of this experience offered the opportunity for individuals to be more introspective and reflective of one’s values, trust and leadership in the future. It enabled many people to find new ways to discover or rediscover things that are truly important to them.
In our work lives we have had to use our technology to have virtual meetings with our clients/customers, colleagues, conferences and trade gatherings. It has been nothing short of amazing that we have been able to stay connected, but doing so in a one-dimensional medium makes it really difficult to stay engaged and have meaningful visits.
Let’s not minimize the technology, but nothing can compare to getting together in person. Last week, I attended a leadership conference for the home care trade called Home Care 100 and went on to spend three amazing days with inspiring and thought-provoking content, held quality conversations with my peers and saw old friends and made many new ones. The conference kicked off with some valuable insights on leadership from former Secretary of State Colin Powell and how trust is integral to your role as a leader. While Powell could not be with us, we used technology to bring him in while the rest of the conference was in person.
Stephen Covey wrote about “sharpening the saw” in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” This seventh habit is about taking the time to renew and refresh four dimensions of our natures: physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional. It’s all about being more effective in our life’s work.
Last week, I was able to work on this particular habit, and I would not have been able to receive the materials, information and connections without having had this in-person experience.
Social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune systems. By neglecting our need to connect, we put our health at risk. The reality is that during this pandemic we were living in a time of true disconnection despite the technology.
My takeaway from attending the Home Care 100 Leadership conference is that the warm feeling of human connections is still very important in maintaining our overall physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional well-being.
Let’s hope and pray that we have made the turn on this pandemic, and we can get back to these in-person visits that we as human beings crave. JN
Bob Roth is the managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions.