During these turbulent times of lockdown and quarantine, the frontliners and the senior citizens are foremost on my mind. As Berlin takes tentative steps in Phase 2 of lifting the restrictions, people are trying to come to terms with the new routines and social norms. The concept that we can never return to the way things were before the lockdown is slowly sinking in, and not in the most positive manner. In the few weeks that we have globally been confined at home and gotten used to wearing masks when outdoors, a strong sense of pervading paranoia has taken over society.
While standing at the bus stop or the underground stations, I keep a keen eye out for anyone attempting to get on without a mask. It’s not just me, everyone else onboard does so as well, and it creates a very anti-social dichotomy. I used to enjoy commuting to and from work, but now I am just terrified to take the bus. At least in the underground trains it is easy to keep your distance to the other passengers, but the buses are a nightmare, especially when it is standing room only. The only person protected is the bus driver, who sits behind a protective shield and does not come in contact with any of the passengers. The rest of us, however, will take a seat which is roughly 30cm away from the next person. Between the obnoxious and rebellious teenagers who will pull down their masks in the bus to gossip with their friends, and the children who get on and are not wearing masks, I feel like shouting and throwing a tantrum. I wasn’t like this six weeks ago and it scares me.
What breaks my heart are the senior citizens who never made the jump into the digital age. Lucky are those who are 75 and below, and still manage to operate a mobile phone to keep in touch with the rest of the world. The moment the cafes opened last Friday in Berlin, a lot of senior citizens headed back out in a desperate hope to socialise again, only to discover that cafe life is not what they used to know anymore. Some, I noticed, will just get on the train with no particular destination or errand to run, they just wanted to get out, dress up, and see people again. What about those confined to the nursing homes? The bedridden? Those suffering from Alzheimers and dementia? Or those in less fortunate social conditions where technology plays no role in their lives and they depend entirely on the kindness of others to get through the day?
Be a part of the #kindnessmatters movement, and check in on your neighbours, parents, grandparents, friends, or perhaps even retired colleagues who are alone in life. Every little bit counts, even if these are not the times to drop in for a cup of tea, but some of the elderly are voracious book readers and can no longer walk over to the library for new books. Some who can’t read anymore won’t mind being read a story, be told a story, or simply give the pleasure of telling their stories over and over again!