COVID-19 has created a state of restless fear for many. The fact that we do not know what the future holds—for ourselves; for our families, friends and colleagues; or for our residents and members—is driving a lot of us to put our lives on pause. We are waiting for answers before we move forward. But what happens when we put our lives or businesses on pause? Nothing. So, what can we do? We are in the middle of a pandemic. Right?

The only way to move off pause is to press forward to our next normal.

I try to think about it this way: Does anybody ever really know what the future holds? Any one of us could be hit by a car, fall ill, go broke or lose a spouse tomorrow. Amid life’s uncertainty, what we do know is shaped by our experiences and habits. Many of us do the same things day in and day out for years and derive comfort from that predictability—it’s a mental security blanket, if I may. For example, we know exactly how long it takes to get to work, so we leave home around the same time every day to ensure we arrive on time. We typically drive the same streets and stop at the same Starbucks for our morning pick-me-up. 

When happens, though, when that predictability is disrupted, as has happened to us at every level—from the personal to the global—this year? We may become extremely uncomfortable, angry, even fearful.

After long months of COVID-19, however, old routines are giving way to new ones. I now get in the elevator in my building and know that I am required to wear a mask, as I am at the store and in crowded places. I have accepted this as part of my routine. I also now call my mother nearly every day. She and my 108-year-old grandmother are in a community that is experiencing a second COVID outbreak (protocols seem more effective this time at limiting the virus’s spread). The frequency of these conversations is new. I have made them part of my routine because I am concerned that no matter how resilient my mother (and my grandmother) is, social isolation will have an impact on her. She needs to connect to the family daily.

As I embrace these new routines, I find myself asking the question, “If I do this, then what?” It feels like I am stacking dominos. I put one “domino” in front of another to see what my actions mean, and how they could affect the future—for me, for my family and for ICAA.  Being conscious and deliberate in this way helps me to understand my new routines and how they will create my next normal. 

My new routines will create new habits that help instill a level of comfort in a world experiencing great discomfort. Does it mean that COVID-19 becomes any less concerning? Absolutely not. What it means is that I am trying to adapt to our new world, just as people have done since the start of time. And it is possible to take some comfort from understanding how adjusting to a new reality has helped society thrive even in the midst of a pandemic.

By asking “If I do this, then what?” we can focus on controlling as much of our lives as possible. Yes, our experiences and habits are different now—but so is our world. Over these months, many have lost jobs, others have found careers; many have become isolated, others have grown more connected. This pandemic challenges all of us to move off pause and press forward to build a new future. For me, it begins with one routine at a time.


  • 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.