Health & Technology New Normals

Health & Technology New Normals

The instantaneous shift from physical meetings to online meetings, this is how fast the coronavirus has transformed our lives. We have been forced to pivot our ways of doing things into a virtual space. Video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Google Meets/Hangouts, Microsoft Teams to name a few have been in increased use over the last few months. If you are like me, you have been eager for life to return to “normal.” But what exactly does that mean and what does it look like?

With the increased use of technology in our lives, I believe that the virtual space will be part of our “new normal.” There are a few ways in which I see the use of technology sticking around for a while:

Virtual Doctor’s Appointments (telehealth): Many health professionals were not able to see patients/clients due to the measures put in place to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. This in turn led to a new way in medicine called telehealth or telemedicine. Here, patients can have access to quality healthcare from the comforts of their home, while doctors virtually monitor their patients through digital technology devices such as computers, laptops, tablets or cell phones.

Virtual Gatherings/Hang-outs: With gathering limitations and restrictions from outings to bars, places for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations amongst others could not take place. Not to mention that most places were closed anyways. This led to creative ways to meet and gather with friends, work associates and family. I have used video conferencing to have dance parties, game nights, dinner, happy hour and networking on various virtual platforms/apps.

Virtual Education: Schools across the globe closed their buildings abruptly and quickly transitioned to remote learning via the internet. However, there are many debates about the benefits and shortcoming of distance learning from students, parents, teachers and school administrators. There is more debate about what schools will do for the upcoming school year that is quickly approaching. Particularly in the U.S, COVID cases have spiked across most states in the South and West Coast, leaving much tension about what is the best way to move forward. One thing is certain: the use of technology will be involved in some capacity. Many colleges, universities, private and public schools are considering some kind of hybrid model that integrates both in person and remote learning depending on the situation.

Virtual Fitness Classes: There is definitely a new wave and transition of doing fitness at home amidst the pandemic. It has raised questions about the benefits of working out from home as opposed to the gym or fitness studio. I have personally found myself taking a combination of live and on-demand fitness classes in my living room-turned fitness space. Again, both have the pros and cons but I feel that the convenience and ability to exercise on your own time and space is an option that will be sticking around that will cause a shift in the fitness industry moving forward.

Prior to the pandemic, I used technology occasionally. But now, technology has and will continue to be an integral part of my everyday life- as I imagine the same for you. The one good thing about this time is the ability to be creative in how we live and work through technology. It is opening up new opportunities that we couldn’t have thought of otherwise.

#coronauseoftechnology.

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#BlackAgingMatters

#BlackAgingMatters

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a time to raise awareness of the importance of mental health for our overall well-being and to educate the public on how to seek help. Mental health refers to cognitive, psychological, emotional and social wellness. Each year, millions of Americans face the realities of living with a mental health condition. Mental illness does not discriminate based on race, gender or identity. However, it has been found that depending on your background and identity, treatment can be more difficult to find.

National Minority Mental Awareness Month was first established in 2008 with the purpose of making mental health treatment available to all. It was also created to tackle the issues of access to mental health treatment within the Black and Brown communities. I want to take the time to highlight and acknowledge the fact that being Black while aging in America has many effects on one’s mental health.

The United States Administration for Community Living has identified that there are over 4 million Black seniors ages 65 and over. This is a generation that has experienced racial injustice and inequality but has also lived through various social movements such as civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights amongst others. The Black Lives Matter movement of today, has been particularly vocal about police brutality. But for the older Black generation, it is about the overall marginalization and disenfranchisement of Black people in America. This is the result of cumulative racism and increased oppression over time.

There are disparities to be found around issues such as housing, transportation, financial security/generational wealth, education, healthcare, health insurance and social services based on age and race. This in turn, has led to low health literacy, cultural mistrust of institutions, acts of discrimination and chronic stress that particularly affects Black seniors. The older generation of African Americans is at an increased risk of having race-related stress. Studies have shown that experiences of racism can have harmful effects on the mental health of minorities, especially African Americans. These effects can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lower self-esteem
  • Inability to concentrate due to flashbacks of traumatic racist events

I am bringing this to light as a concerned citizen who is aware of the lack of resources available to older adults and seniors and particularly Black individuals aging in America. I want it to be known and acknowledged that racism has lasting effects that need to be acknowledged that affects the quality of life among Black seniors. They are in need of the treatment and services just as any other citizen. The effects of racism and racial trauma are far too loud not to be seen or heard. I challenge you to join me in raising awareness to make a difference in order to allow Black seniors to age with dignity. #BlackAgingMatters

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National Therapeutic Recreation Week

National Therapeutic Recreation Week

Last week, July 5-11, marked National Therapeutic Recreation Week that is observed the second week of July every year since 1984. This week highlights recreation therapies and the importance of engaging in activities that can aid in our healing and recovery. What is recreational therapy? It is the use of recreation and other activities as a form of intervention to address the physical, emotional and mental health and recovery of an individual. Recreation therapy can include activities such as sports, hobbies, relaxation/breathing techniques and creative or expressive art. These kinds of programs can be conducted in a variety of spaces such as hospitals, rehab facilities, community centers and assisted living facilities.

After the death of my mother, dealing with her demise has not been easy. I have been faced with grief, loss and the new responsibility of being a caretaker for my father. As a way to cope with everything, I have been participating in expressive art therapy sessions. I decided to focus in this type of therapy because it is a multi-modal approach that uses the arts (writing, dancing, drama, movement, music, painting, drawing.) in an integrative way to foster growth, development and healing.

Art therapy can be used to help people explore their emotions, cope with stress, become more self-aware, boost their self-esteem and to work on their social skills. It is mostly used as a compliment to traditional mental health treatment. The art therapy can either be in a form of creating one’s own art or viewing/interpreting another person’s artwork. It is helpful to those who find talking and expressing themselves verbally to be very difficult. This is mainly because art is a form of self-expression and in the long run it is a form of healing and dealing with our mental wellbeing.

As I engage in this form of therapy, I personally see a lot of benefits from it. Some of the benefit include:

  • Visual representation of one’s emotions
  • It is a way of connecting to the subconscious
  • Learning new coping mechanisms
  • It is a way of developing new (artistic) skills

Those are just but a few benefits or expressive arts. Expressive arts can be beneficial to people dealing with:

  • Anxiety: It helps to bring to light what may be worrying you and finding new ways to handle anxious feelings.
  • Stress: It helps in reduction of stress by converting negative energy into positive habits.
  • Interpersonal relationships with family members or friends: It helps to build communication skills for those who find it hard to express themselves with words.
  • Grief or Bereavement: It helps to process the loss of a loved one.
  • Trauma. A lot of people tend to block out painful experiences, art therapy helps one to express their feelings about the event and taking steps to heal and move forward.

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