What does it mean to be grounded? It’s a term we hear tossed around, maybe you’ve used it to describe someone or maybe you have heard at the beginning of an exercise class or a session on relaxation. Grounded really means being present, both in your body and your mind, and being connected to the earth. My mental image is of standing tall, feet rooted in the ground, strong and stable. The winds may ruffle your leaves, but your trunk stands firm. Strong winds may cause the branches to sway but the foundation, that tree trunk, holds solidly.

Over the course of the last year, there have been many times when we, as elder services providers, really did not feel grounded. There were times that we weren’t even sure that there was ground beneath us. All that we thought we knew was called into question, including our ability to keep people safe, the knowledge we needed to folks heal, the answers we so desperately sought, not to mention the availability of both tools and resources. Even our sense of who we are, and who our organizations are, was shaken as we found ourselves portrayed not as valued havens for the elderly but rather as dreaded facilities in which elders were, for all intents and purposes, doomed.

We’ve been profoundly shaken by the COVID experience. None of us will ever be the same and, for those of us who work with older adults, the impact is, I think, even more, profound and enduring. Yet as I look around at my colleagues across the country and at my own team, we still stand strong and our roots are still deeply in the earth.

Our work matters. We make a difference in the lives of older adults every day, helping them to thrive, to find purpose, to have meaning and value every day. Our goal, as mission-driven providers, is clear and focused—to make aging an enriching and fulfilling experience by enhancing health and quality of life. We represent a vulnerable population that needs both our support and our voices to represent them. This work is, I truly believe, a sacred trust and a responsibility we take on with passion, compassion, and a deep and abiding commitment.

It is time for us to think about ourselves as grounded, to recognize that we may have lost leaves and even branches because of the mighty wind that COVID blew. But we are strong in the earth, elemental in nature, able to withstand and still reach to grow higher still.