For many people, the lockdown and other restrictions have meant a slower pace of life and a renewed appreciation for small pleasures and our local surroundings. Lesley, who lives in the East Midlands with her husband, has found that the way life has changed has meant she has learnt to use new technologies, taken up new hobbies, has been exercising more and connected more with people in her local area.
“I’m a frugal, make-do-and-mend sort of person, so have enjoyed refurbishing projects – furniture, furnishings, clothing, garden stuff. I have found stuff in skips to bring back to life and enjoy the challenges of doing so on a small budget…The pandemic has given me more time to think, to look around me more, to talk, to doodle, write poetry (I’ve learned how to Haiku!) and to not take life for granted.”
Her own mental health has not been particularly affected by the pandemic, but she does have worries about others who might not be managing so well, or lack ways to connect with people, and thinks there should be more support available to help people: “Many of the older people in our area are not internet connected and don’t know what they are missing out on. Getting older people online should be a big thing – and for many this means starting from zero knowledge.”
Technology has been invaluable in helping Lesley stay connected with her family and has made her realise “how modern life is enhanced by our control of modern technology”, but she misses normal social and family activities: “the family get-togethers and cuddling the little ones.”
However, accessing healthcare safely is a worry. Lesley has had reduced contact with the health service and medical appointments cancelled, and has family members who have needed care but are concerned about going into a hospital: “My [family member] needs an appointment but won’t go to the hospital. Her situation and ongoing health may be compromised by this and I’m worried for her.”
What comes next is a source of some concern for her. As restrictions lift, Lesley is concerned people may stop taking adequate precautions, and an impending recession risks affecting her small business. But Lesley remains optimistic that she will be able to adapt, and hopes that society as a whole might take this opportunity to improve: “It has struck me that most humans are very adaptable to new circumstances and that the healthy approach is not to keep looking at what life used to be like.”
She wants a focus going forward on people’s wellbeing, and helping out those who are disadvantaged, and thinks we as a country have the potential to achieve it: ‘‘Looking forward, we know that the world of finance is going to be hit badly. It’s time to look at wellbeing instead of GDP or whatever is looked at. I realise that no country is perfect, but we are swaying way off mark nowadays. We are more divided than I remember and there is a bigger gap in income, education and achievement. We have the ability and the money to right this wrong.’’
Lesley’s story is a reminder that we have an opportunity arising from this crisis to rethink how society works – from the role of technology in our lives, to deciding what the priorities of a healthy society should be. That’s what our national conversation, Renew Normal, is aiming to achieve.