New Perspectives: A Senior Moment – “DOWN TIME”

As that old proverb informs us: the month of March “–comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” While this cliché may be generally predictive about our weather patterns, the relentless, invasive surging of the coronavirus during these current 31 days proves the opposite can also be true.

On February 28, that predicted weather “lion” roared in off the Lake right on schedule. In Western Ontario, we felt the biting strength of this most powerful blizzard of the winter. In contrast, COVID-19 made its March appearance quiet as a “lamb.” My diary entry for that same date notes” Canada has 22 cases confirmed, eight in Ontario.” Long range forecasts for March 31 predict a much-welcomed and lamb-like departure of winter—just as the proverb promises. In contrast, Ontario epidemiologists forecast that by month’s end, the rampage of coronavirus will intensify into fearful, “lion-like” statistics.

One result of the pandemic which is growing exponentially, is that many Ontarians are suddenly experiencing unprecedented “down time.” Non-essential workers are told not to report to their office, factory or business. Many others are being laid off, an unwelcome new experience for them. Children face a long-extended March Break. Residents of long term care facilities and retirement homes are shut in and family and friends shut out. Churches, movie theatres, recreational facilities, bars and restaurants face draconian restrictions on public gatherings.

As a mostly retired person, I have not been directly affected by job loss. My own down time comes more in the form of “lost” friendships. Whether I am faithfully practicing “social distance” or “self-isolation,” my daily social life has been negatively altered. I have been guilty of grumbling about those lost walks and talks, the shared hot drinks, laughter and hugs.

This week, by coincidence, two of my closest friends each sent an email which gently pushed me toward a more positive view of down time. They reminded me of a rare opportunity which can be provided even in the midst of our current health crisis.

Our schedules have been largely wiped clean of appointments, meetings and social gatherings. Can we now fill these empty spaces with time to work on our bucket list? Perhaps we can take more walks and rediscover that the journey really can be more important than the destination. Some of us are blessed to live beside the big Lake which is beckoning me to revisit its beauty and power. Many of us have a Rail Trail or a segment of the Bruce Trail to explore. Some can just stroll along a quiet street in any town.

Others can use the quietness of personal down time to sit and reflect, without the usual interruptions, on life itself: their goals and dreams, hopes and plans. Some may at last find time to listen to music and to read that pile of books on their shelf, Christmas gifts patiently waiting to be opened.

COVID-19 has dramatically intensified life for many fellow residents across our region: health care workers, parents of young children, first responders, government workers and grocery and pharmacy staffs among them. For them there is precious little down time. We are immensely grateful that they remain on the front lines. We need to be praying for their own health and safety.

We also think of Canadians already struck down by the virus and wish them a full recovery and our thoughts are with those families who have lost a family member at this time.

But for many seniors like me, the primary impact of the virus so far is suddenly more down time. If we use it wisely, it can become a personal positive experience, even in the midst of this unprecedented and growing health crisis all around us.