The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted many people across the world. Some have lost loved ones, jobs, or seen their businesses crumble to the ground, probably never to recover. It is undeniable that many people have felt the pinch of the current tough times in one way or another.
The pressure and anxiety that builds up during times like these often leave people unhappy and vulnerable to poor wellbeing. However, in situations like these, one of the best places to start is exploring creative ways to utilize available resources, such as new technologies.
Even before Covid-19 and the social restrictions it brought, we were already living in a world where many people, from college students, single parents, couples, and the elderly, felt lonely and struggled to thrive in their wellbeing. This can be evidenced by the huge numbers of people who seek knowledge and other resources on improving wellbeing, from books, motivational speeches, and online courses. For example, a course named the science of wellbeing at Yale University became the most popular and most oversubscribed course in the university’s more than 300-year history. Following the obviously huge demand for the course, and the arrival of the Coronavirus pandemic, in March 2020, Yale University made the course freely available online, via the online learning platform ‘Coursera’. This just cements the fact that wellbeing is becoming more and more centre-stage in people’s lives and that people are struggling to be happy, and are looking for fresh insights on improving wellbeing.
In an interview with CNN, the author of this popular ‘happiness course’ pointed to the importance of leveraging on technology to enrich our own wellbeing and that of others, especially the elderly and people with comorbidities. These groups being more prone to Covid-19, are often more isolated and may be more prone to loneliness than others, which can give rise to, or exacerbate wellbeing issues.
Unlike the young generation who are largely digital natives and are hence quick to explore new technologies, elderly people are less inclined to learning and using new technologies. However, as the current times have reminded us, technology can be a vital tool in day-to-day life and learning and teaching these technologies to others has become almost a necessity.
We have seen how these technologies have helped businesses and other institutions to sustain their operations with staff working from home; thanks to collaborative and video conferencing tools such as Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype, and others. The important mind-shift to make is that these technologies are not only for businesses. They can and have proven useful to individuals and families by enriching their social bonds. In the current globalized world, many family member live worlds apart. However, what these new technologies tell us is that while we can be physically distanced from our loved ones, that doesn’t stop us from enjoying a virtual dinner, a cooking session, watching a movie together or even playing a board game.
The challenge in front of all us however, is how we can leverage on technology to bridge the distance gap that can potentially negatively impact the wellbeing of people, especially the elderly and people with comorbidities. For example, enabling a family member to have a smartphone and imparting them with basic skills on a technology tool such as WhatsApp or Zoom can go a long way. Also, seeking and sharing knowledge about available wellbeing resources such as online courses, books or podcasts can also go a long way.
In times like these, we need each other more than we normally would, and it is a challenge to all of us to reach out to the people in our network more often than we normally would. Above all, we must leverage on technology as an enabler and strengthener of our social bonds.
Ms Kimaro writes about careers, leadership, personal development, and issues affecting youth and women.