“The Coronavirus Is Redefining Social Mores As We Age In Place”

The air fist bump has replaced the full contact fist bump which replaced the handshake as we look to minimize actual physical contact while indicating our approval without actually touching

The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is impacting our lives in ways that many of us would not have believed, imagined, expected, or foreseen just a couple of weeks ago. However, the long term implications of the disease, even after it ceases to be a daily concern or health risk, are going to be felt and noticed long into the future. It’s going to define the new normality.

Many of us have been aging in place in recent years, desiring to remain in our current homes long-term with no intention of finding another dwelling or attempting to move someplace else. Some of us have found that our existing home meets our needs satisfactorily or that we would like to make a few modifications or improvements to our homes to accommodate us as the years continue to go by.

Others of us are finding that our current homes do not meet our needs as well as we thought they might – perhaps because we are finding ourselves at home much more than we have in the past and now may be coming to terms with some of the shortcomings in our homes. Even though we would like for our homes to provide for us in a safe, accessible, and comfortable fashion as we move forward in time so that we can continue to live in them and enjoy them as we do so, some of us are discovering that there are deficiencies in our homes (major or minor) that we had not identified previously.

Another thing we are discovering as we remain at home and pull back from unnecessary social contact is that commonly accepted normal social behavior has been thrown on its head. This is likely a long-term change that will impact all of us as we move forward and get back to normal in a few months.

One of the most notable results of the current crisis is the temporary change in social behavior that is likely to have a lasting impact and become part of our accepted social mores as we move forward. many of the customs that we have had and practiced in the past – some for hundreds of years – are no longer going to be deemed appropriate or practiced informally or casually in public.

It’s possible that many of our adapted forms of greeting and hygiene may become permanent behavior.

Until recently, an extremely common way of meeting and greeting people, in a business setting, at a party, at a friend’s home, on the street, in a coffee shop, at church, in the office, at the ballgame, or having a conversation with someone on the plane (whether we have met them previously or not), is to shake hands with them as an acceptable form of mutual greeting and civility. If we are the outgoing gregarious type that finds hugging or touching part of our nature and are accustomed to grabbing someone’s forearm or giving them a friendly hug around the neck when we meet them, and for all of us who like to greet an old friend or dear acquaintance with an embrace, we now find that this is inappropriate to do. It’s going to be a hard habit to break!

Centuries of customs have disappeared literally overnight. Any type of touching or being close to someone, as we look at pictures, emails, texts, or computer screens together – or being at the game and cheering for our favorite teams as we are in close personal contact with them – will undergo some social distancing changes. Speaking of which, look at how quickly this new term became part of our vocabulary. Literally overnight everyone has begun using it and understanding its meaning. Amazingly quick adoption!

Now, when we prepare to enter someone’s home to help them evaluate their living environment or consider having some improvements or modifications done, we are going to need to be much more aware of how they feel about their personal health. Just expecting to be allowed to enter their home freely without taking precautions is not likely to be acceptable. We should be prepared – without being requested – to put on booties, protective gear, and a face mask even though it may not be related to the reason we are there or the type of work we will be doing as a show of consideration for the client’s personal health and well-being. This is going to be especially important for older clients.

Similarly, being prepared to wipe down surfaces we touch or bringing our own folding chair with us to use so that they are not concerned about any transfer of viruses (corona, flu, or something else) from us to their furniture.

It’s taking these extra steps – and alerting them to what we are doing as we speak to them by phone before we arrive – that will help put them at ease. We come in contact with many people in a variety of settings so we need for our clients to be able to and appreciate that we are concerned about their health while at the same time being ready to help them with their renovation project to enhance their quality of life.



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