If there was a prize for the most colourful statement made by a Canadian politician during 2020, I would think the phrase by Doug Ford might be in the running. His statement repeated several times “We are going to build an iron ring of protection around our seniors” is a classic. Especially since he later tweeted that they even planned to fortify the iron ring.

I heard that and I tried to imagine what a big iron ring around a senior’s home would look like. It sounds magical, mystical, or even mythological. Something you might read about in a book like the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or in some fanciful science fiction novel. It does conjure up some powerful ideas. But are they real or imagined and just how does one fortify an iron ring? Do you haul in more iron, build some turrets and install some virus killing plasma lasers?

Does iron have some inherent property to repel the evil viruses? I did a search for rings of iron and all I really came across was that engineers wear iron rings. So, was he suggesting a ring of engineers stand in a circle around the senior homes, dressed in suits and with hard hats on, holding their iron rings high to form a pulsating purple protective shield?

Now, I have a lot of respect for engineers and what they are capable of doing. Having a few around might not be a bad idea because given time and resources, I am sure they could come up with ways to modify some of the senior’s homes and make them much better, safer and more comfortable.

They could certainly come up with ways to better ventilate them and cut down on airborne infections. They could probably do the same for schools, hospitals, and public buildings.

But getting back to the original statement of putting in an iron ring of protection around the seniors, it seems it was much more rhetorical than any actual plan because the virus is still hitting senior’s homes hard. So while stirring statements may help bolster people’s feelings, it does little to protect people or slow the pandemic.

This would be a good time to form some panels of knowledgeable people from several disciplines and perspectives to look at the problem. How do we modify the buildings we already have to make them better and how do we handle things in the future? We might have to consider alternative approaches.

As for new buildings, I think every old age home or hospital should have a special visitor’s room. One where visitors can enter from the outside and residents can enter from the inside. Then they can talk and see each other through a clear barrier. Also, they could add touching stations with protective sleeves so people can hold each other’s hands without passing on any viruses or germs. Seeing, talking and touching would help tremendously to lessen the isolation and each home should have such a room for use during pandemics and the ordinary flu and cold seasons. Hospitals could do the same thing because loved ones, friends and family visits do help heal.

Rather than building mega seniors’ homes, smaller more accessible ones might be the answer. Personally, I think the way we divide up our society by age groups and even jobs is a mistake. There should be more contact between all the age groups. I think it would make everyone healthier and happier and more productive and understanding.

There should be more interaction between adults and children, students and seniors. This pandemic has given us an ideal time to re-think some of the divisions and institutionalization that plagues our society. De-institutionalization is a mighty big word, but I hope it will become a future trend. Let’s make things a whole lot more humane. That is a nice simple word and concept.

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