All Sorts of Freedom

Members | July 06, 2021 | by Carol Silver Elliott

LeadingAge Board Chair Carol Silver Elliott shares her thoughts on how freedom has taken on a different meaning during the pandemic. 

Clearly when we start a week with Independence Day, freedom is a concept that is not too far from our minds.  Fireworks, barbecues and red, white and blue may be the most visible elements of this holiday but this year it seems to me that the focus on freedom has taken on a different meaning.

The obvious freedom is the one that many of us saw play out this weekend as families and friends gathered, as hugs became commonplace and there were more than a few tears in eyes as people reunited for the first time, in some cases, for well over a year.

For our elders in residential settings that freedom is slowly, and relatively steadily, proceeding. The path is more cautious and controlled but still forward towards whatever normal is in a post-COVID reality.

I, like many of you, have watched the world begin to open up with a mixture of joy and anxiety.  For those of us who have lived through the stress and challenges of COVID in an older adult setting, I wonder if the fears will ever truly fade.  I wonder if the persistent worry will ever be one we can set aside and, frankly, I wonder if we should.

For a long time we thought so many things were “givens.”   We thought that things “couldn’t happen here,” and we assumed that the resources and information we needed, no matter what, would be available when we needed it. Of course we know far better now.

One of my management team, in recounting his experiences during the worst days, said “I won’t be fooled again. I thought it couldn’t happen to us but it did and I won’t be fooled again.”  I think so many of us feel that way, peering around the dark corners and waiting for the next possible surprise, the next crisis.

What we experience changes us and that is inevitable.  That which happens to us impacts our lives, sometimes slightly and other times profoundly and we all know what the COVID era has wrought.  I think one of our personal challenges, as leaders and as aging services professionals, is to find ways to free ourselves from the weight of our fears, uncertainties and the pain and grief that have been our constant companions.  Is it time to declare our independence from a world marked by COVID?  Perhaps not entirely and certainly not with our eyes closed but with a commitment to regaining our footing.  Perhaps where we need to seek freedom is in our thinking, letting ourselves look beyond COVID and begin, to allow in a brighter light for the future.