There’s a new normal, today, as citizens of all ages and backgrounds rally to stop COVID-19. The risks to older adults drive our actions. We wash our hands, distance ourselves, work at home, and avoid large gatherings, all to save lives. This mobilization is both astounding and gratifying to witness.

As Maine faces one of its biggest public health challenges, we are struck by the deep commitment and shared purpose uniting our communities. There’s a cultural shift in this moment that warrants comment: namely, that the wellbeing of older adults is front and center in our public consciousness. This is a different reality than just a few months ago.

American culture tends to emphasize youth, vitality, beauty, and accomplishments of body and mind. These terms can be applied at any age, of course, but our discourse on aging often leans to the negative. Inaccurate and often harmful “old person” stereotypes pale in the present crisis, replaced by honest valuing and care for our aging neighbors.

While tragic on a global scale, COVID-19 offers us something: a reminder of our shared humanity and interdependence across generations. Our communities will stand strong in resilience, hope and compassion – a few of the many qualities passed down by our forebears.

Let’s remember this communal spirit when COVID-19 is gone. The lessons we learn now can transform our shared future in health and aging.

Tom Meuser

Director, Center for Excellence in Aging & Health, University of New England
Portland

Heather DiYenno

Director, Institute for Integrative Aging,  Saint Joseph’s College of Maine
Standish

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