While physics was never my area of expertise, there is one law of physics that we all know well. Called Newton’s first law of motion, or the law of inertia, it reads in part that “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion.” Those words were in my head this week as I thought about what lies ahead for all of us in aging services.

The year we have just survived, the COVID year as we will forever remember it, has caused us to be in frantic motion and no motion all at the same time. We spent the year reacting, as well we had to, trying to understand the virus, keep it from our doors and do all we could to keep our elders and our staff safe. We changed policies and practices daily, sometimes even multiple times a day. We made decisions more quickly than we would have thought possible, moving faster, it seemed than the speed of light. The virus, however, often left light speed in the dust.

Despite all of this motion, despite all of the effort and energy we expended, in many ways, we have not been moving at all as organizations. We’ve been standing still at best, holding on for survival in the midst of chaos, just trying to “get through it.”

But getting through it has to come to an end and moving forward has to take its place. I would contend that we have to shift from being reactive to being proactive, to thinking about the future and defining our preferred future. We know that there will be dramatic increases in the number of older adults. We also know that their needs and preferences will not be the same as the generation who preceded them. How do we anticipate their needs? How do we begin to rethink and retool so that we stay both relevant and viable?

The future will not look like the past. That’s a reality that is inevitable. COVID did not change our field but it accelerated the pace of change. Meeting the demands of the future and reinventing ourselves is not easy work. It’s challenging and it, by design, pushes us out of our comfort zone. But now is the time. Now is our opportunity. Now is the moment to recommit to the care of older adults, to rededicate ourselves to our values and ideals, and claim the future.