Happy OT Month! April is the month for my profession (occupational therapy) to celebrate occupations. We also honor all occupational therapy practitioners, who work with people to assist them in doing those activities they are expected to do, need to do and/or want to do.

Occupational therapists often work with people (of all ages) who have run into barriers doing the tasks that are meaningful to them. Using our creativity and scientific and psychological backgrounds, we work with those people to adapt tasks, find new enriching activities and to set mutual goals for a better tomorrow. Our motto at the national level (from the American Occupational Therapy Association) is to promote “living life to its fullest.”

Let’s talk about occupations in this strange and taxing environment we have found ourselves in the spring of 2020. Many things we love to do: play sports like pickleball and baseball, go shopping, hug our friends and family – have had to be put aside for the time being. That is just the hard truth. We must work together (remotely) to get through this pandemic in the best way we can. Humans love to and need to connect with each other, and we are being challenged daily to make those connections in new ways. The good news is that many of us are rising to this challenge, and for that accomplishment we all need to be commended. Start by giving yourself a big hug. Don’t argue – you know you need it!

Seeking purpose every day is a key component of occupational engagement. Some of you may be aware that the Okinawans (who live on islands in the East China Sea) are known both for their high self-perceived quality of life and the long length of their healthy lives. One difference that stands out about this group is that they never lose their sense of purpose, or “ikigai,” which is described in detail by Neil Pasricha in his 2016 book “The Happiness Connection.” Despite being home when we would rather be out and about, we need to determine, each of us for ourselves, what we can do on this day that is personally meaningful. Consider your purpose for today; make today count.

The Center for Excellence in Aging and Health at the University of New England (une.edu/ceah) focuses on research on healthful aging and improving the lives of older adults in Maine and beyond. We realize that this is an especially challenging time for elders, who are more at risk during this pandemic.

To serve the older adults in our communities, we are already holding “peer connections” Zoom groups. We have discussed how we are collectively making use of this extra time (a bonus!) amid the chaos. A few ideas from our wise elders are worth sharing:

• Sending out all those hoarded greeting cards to people you truly care about.

• Sharing your heartfelt thoughts about what they mean to you.

• Putting on some wild and crazy music and dancing with abandon (it works even better with friends on Zoom).

• Brainstorming ways to commit random acts of kindness for your neighbors.

• Sorting all those photos that you have been meaning to go through for years (or perhaps decades).

We will make it through this crisis. Please embrace those occupations available to you. Dream up new ones. If you are at a loss or just need to reach out, call an occupational therapist today. We care. Our purpose is to help you reach your goals so that each of you can live life to its fullest.

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