ASPIRO has always been concerned about social isolation and its implication on mental and physical health. Today, more than ever, we are seeing our concerns play out in real time. An unprecedented number of people are now self-quarantining and social distancing. Some because their work is temporarily shuttered and others because they feel it is in their and societies best interest. A couple weeks ago I emailed a friend who’s office is just outside my own. I asked how he was doing and he replied, “Honestly. I’m in hell.”
Self-quarantine and social distancing takes a different form for many people with disabilities. I’ve been spending my days between work and my home office. If I’m home I stay connected though a computer, a telephone, seven Zoom meetings a day, and a 12 pack of Mountain Dew. At times I peek out of my office and talk to my wife or make a quick snack. On the weekends I go for a drive or walk in the woods. Many of the people we support lack these simple luxuries. They are far less engaged as they shelter in their own apartment with limited technology, no one to talk to, no car, and limited financial resources. Sadly, many also have a narrow social network outside of their friends at ASPIRO.
As we adjust to this temporary new normal we are constantly looking for ways to stay connected. Yesterday we hosted our second “Drive By and Wave Hi!” We had a fantastic showing, with a steady stream of 90 cars for over 45 minutes! It was a great way for us to stay connected and, quite frankly, was as much for us as it was for the people we support. When you work in this business you become deeply connected and this pandemic has helped us see just how big a void there is when everyone stays home.
We are also looking at new ways to stay connected electronically. Starting soon we will be offering virtual Day and Prevocational Services using Zoom. There will be seven classes a week covering everything from music to employment to wellness.
While we don’t yet know when we will be able to reopen, what we do know is that we will. With that in mind we are already creating plans for what our new services will look like. For the past month we have been reacting. It feels good to begin designing and planning.
Please take care of yourselves and each other. If we can be of service don’t hesitate to reach out.