Baby (Boomer) steps out of the Pandemic
Wayne Clark PhD, Woodrow Clark PhD
Boomers in retirement and the new norms
Throughout the last thirty days, we had trouble writing more about baby boomers in retirement for several reasons. The primary issue is the Pandemic as it changed frequently and dramatically, hot spots popping up, populations at risk expanded here and stabilized there, equipment and PPE needs fluctuated, unemployment sky- rocketed, etc. The magnitude of the problem can be seen in data points, for instance on March 1st there were 88 Covid-19 positives in the US by March 30th there were 170,000, by mid-April there are over 600,000. This epidemic in the US and the worldwide pandemic has made defining current normal hard to put your finger on, let alone predict what the new normal would or should be.
I (Wayne) was with the San Francisco Health Department in the 80’s and 90’s, like many other baby boomers who lived close to the AIDS epidemic, we are having serial flashbacks to that time. All too familiar we now: hear advocates, caregivers and those afflicted plead for help while their patients, friends and colleagues are dying; witness the excruciating deaths of colleagues and friends; remind ourselves that the AIDS epidemic did not end in days, months or even years. There were lessons about life saving changes in lifestyle that were needed even though they demanded being inconvenienced from the previous normal way of doing things. There were realizations that gay men and women were in our movies, TV shows, offices, families, politics, and most importantly in our society needing to be acknowledged for the rights they deserved.
This Covid-19 pandemic will change our norms, like all societal traumas the changes will sometimes be for the worse and sometimes for the better. There is one thing we have learned it is that we should build the new, not exactly like the old, but instead as we aspire for it to be. A post pandemic world that respects all of us, that values our similarities, celebrates our differences, and cherishes the earth that we inhabit. We have a lot of work to do to get back on the road to recovery, we know what it will take to do it, we just need to build the world that we want.
The new normal should be what we want not what we had, since for some like the homeless their normal should not be recreated, nor for those working two jobs due to low wages, that should not be the next normal, and for those of us that are relatively well set we also want to have a new normal on a resilient, thriving, sustainable planet.
Baby boomers should participate in actions that get to the next phase getting back to some semblance of stability. Health and safety first by testing, testing, testing; tracing, tracing, tracing; while continue distancing, distancing, distancing; and isolating when necessary. California Governor Gavin Newsome has six steps and added an Advisory Council (Newsom) to guide the process; former CDC Director Tom Frieden has clearly outlined the health promotion and disease prevention steps necessary. Scientists such as George Rutherford have identified best practices learned from China which had teams tracing and contacting persons that were in contact with Covid-19 positives. In the US it is estimated that most tracing can be done using smart phone technology and digital communication. Even though the US would need hundreds of thousands of trackers, we can for instance create intergenerational teams, with retired Boomers contacting via smart phones while working-age team members will be the boots on the ground in person contacting covid-19 positives. New testing both for presence of the Covid-19 and antibodies of the virus, would result in more citizens to contact and more precise and timely tracing opportunities, the combination would provide a significant barrier to recurrence of virus spreading.
As with every major societal trauma the new normal will be different than the old normal, after world war II there were more women in the workforce in rosy the riveter jobs as well as women executive jobs; after 9/11 getting to the airport minutes before your flight and hopping a plane would be replaced with long lines, TSA check points, and getting to the airport hours before takeoff. Post Covid-19, the handshake greeting will be no more, respectful bow will be more appropriate, work times with crowded mass transportation will be staggered and rely more on Work from Home (WFH). Large gatherings of people at schools, concerts, religious services, conventions will require the creation of alternative ways to be together. We already see digital convening of choirs singing, city councils holding meetings, and offices functioning from a distance. Insurance rates have gone down due to less automobile traffic, the list of the varieties of social change has yet to be written. One thing for sure there is a new expectation of the economy functioning in a more sustainable regenerative manner. A NEXT Economy will be the topic we cover in our subsequent series on Baby Boomers in retirement.