Moving beyond ‘frozen’

Turn to any television news channel today, and what will you find? Reports about natural disasters—wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, droughts, floods—along with the manmade kind—political turmoil, wars, riots, mass shootings, recessions -and, oh yes, a global pandemic. Add to those events such personal disasters as job loss, debt, bankruptcy, homelessness, hunger, illness, hospitalization or death of a loved one. How are we humans dealing with all these challenges to mental health? Not well.

Unsurprisingly, too many of us are drinking more alcohol or taking drugs (legal and illicit), or engaging in a multitude of other addictions and negative behaviors to handle the daily onslaught. As active-aging advocates, we often talk about resilience and its importance. From my viewpoint, I see a widespread need for people to learn better ways to cope and respond to situations, so they become more resilient in the face of such uncertainty. Let’s consider how we can compassionately support growth in this area for our customers, our colleagues and, indeed, ourselves.

Also needed? Remembering to celebrate what is good in life even as we endure these challenging times.

Psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor and best-selling author Viktor Frankl famously wrote about the “last freedom we possess”—the ability to choose our response to circumstances—in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. As I see it, we can let events pound us into submission, which they will; or, we can choose wellness and stand rooted in gratitude for what we have, knowing many others have it worse. Let’s celebrate the good and positive experiences of life, and find ways to reenergize our purpose, professionally and personally.

A great many professionals have striven heroically to uplift residents, members and colleagues during these difficult times (ICAA’s April 2020 survey reveals stories of caring and courage amid concerns). Many Organizational members with whom I have spoken over these months are now, well, “frozen” when it comes to what to do next. Why? They are not sure what actions to take given all the unknowns. Do I move forward? they ask. Retreat? Or maintain the status quo?

To offer guidance, ICAA brought together 154 thought-leaders to explore what the “next normal” might look like for senior living. Their recommended strategies and tactics are reported in the white paper, “Creating a path towards the ‘next normal’ in senior living” and are applicable to virtually any setting, from seniors centers to resorts, to wellness centers.

During the three-month Task Force process, I found it especially exciting that these thought-leaders accepted where we are as a society, but also recognized the opportunity to push the “reset button.” They considered how to move the industry forward with a greater focus on optimizing health and wellness for residents and staff, while creating a new value proposition for the industry.

No matter what the future holds, key to fulfilling these strategies and tactics is to ensure your organization has a prepared team. This team must be ready to respond to any crisis and support your residents or members in remaining engaged and well. To assist with this means educating your staff, helping them build the knowledge and networks to move forward. It’s time to move beyond frozen.

Colin Milner, CEO

International Council on Active Aging®


  • Colin Milner


    International Council on Active Aging

    Colin Milner is CEO of the International Council on Active Aging and founder of the active-aging industry in North America. A leading authority on the health and well-being of the older adult, he has been recognized by the World Economic Forum as one of “the most innovative and influential minds” in the world on aging-related topics.   An award-winning writer, Milner has authored more than 300 articles. He has been published in such journals as Global Policy, and the Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics. He also contributed a chapter to Global Population Ageing: Peril or Promise? (World Economic Forum).   Milner’s speeches have stimulated thousands of business and government leaders, industry professionals and older adults worldwide. Whether Fortune 100 companies or governmental organizations, his efforts have inspired a broad spectrum of groups to seek his counsel, included amongst these is the World Health Organization, European Commission, White House Conference on Aging, US Department of Health and Human Services, US Administration on Aging, National Institute on Aging, Canadian Special Senate Committee on Aging, The Canadian Minister of State (Seniors), National Health Services - Scotland, OECD, Vancouver Olympics, Deloitte Life Sciences & Health Care, Ernst and Young, New Balance, Leprino Foods, and Apple, Inc.   Milner’s efforts have leading-edge publications, television networks and radio stations seeking his insights. Among these outlets are: CNN, BBC, Newsmax, US News and World Report, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Dow Jones Market Watch, Money Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, National Post, Globe and Mail, Parade Magazine, WebMD and Fox Business Radio.