The New Normal

Apr 29, 2021

The “new normal” is a phrase that we have all heard before, particularly in recent months, and that the majority of us have probably used ourselves at least once. As we listen or speak, it’s unlikely that we ponder its meaning too deeply or consider it  to be the oxymoron and hackneyed expression that it actually is. If you are scratching your head about that characterization of the currently popular term, a bit of history should set the record straight

“New normal” is not a relatively new idiom in the American vernacular. Its first public use was in 1918 and the reference then was to social and economic conditions surrounding World War I. Since then there have been a number of  public reappearances of the term, all of which are too numerous to mention here. Notable examples are references to the 2005 avian flu epidemic, the 2008 global financial crisis and now, of course, to the COVID-19 pandemic. In each case, the new normal describes an unwelcome event and/or situation that has caused or is expected to require or compel major changes in lifestyle, social behavior and overall expectations.

Surely, humanity is at that point now — even as we hope we are seeing that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and as we anticipate a return to a more structured, secure and peaceful life. But what about that return and what relevance is that question to senior nutrition programs across this country?

Our last blog post, entitled “Re-Entry,” examined the issue of the negative impacts of long-term social isolation and its unexpected consequence of actually discouraging the re-entry of certain population groups back into routine pre-pandemic activities. In particular, we highlighted seniors, because that is the age cohort on which our and our readers’ work focuses and because there was evidence that they were most likely to be impacted. Now the nightly news carries stories of much younger generations of office workers desiring to forego the social benefits of office work for the security or convenience of virtual work from home.

Such an arrangement might be suitable for many types of work and for the young professionals who perform it. But such detachment from social interaction would be extremely deleterious, we believe, in the lives of older individuals. No one knows that better than the directors and dedicated staff of senior centers and congregate nutrition sites. And no one can bring more wisdom to the task of addressing and preventing it than they. We at NFESH have some simple suggestions, like experimenting with outdoor dining as restaurants have, if programs have the ability and space to do so. But this is not a complete solution nor is it even feasible in some places.

While we acknowledge each senior center and congregate meal program is different, we also know that all share an allegiance to the same cause.  So we are taking the unusual step of concluding this post with an invitation and request. We’d like to serve as a virtual clearinghouse for strategies that are working and then to share those new practice tips in future blogs. To do so we need to hear from you. We invite you to email short descriptions of your program’s successful innovations to [email protected] with the subject line “new normal”. We will read them all and compile and share your successful solutions in future blogs. Together let’s redefine the meaning and refine the reality of familiar phrase.

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