By Mary Anne Hakes

As we now truly ease out of COVID-19 restrictions, I have been reflecting on the generosity of our community over the past two years. Not only have we had the gig economy bringing everything to our doorsteps, but we have also had kind, caring neighbors who checked on each other. People have called and Zoomed to stay in touch, churches have offered services online, museum exhibits have been available from all over the world, travel consultants have taken us on virtual trips, entertainment has been only an app away, and many of us have participated in meetings in our sweats — and without having to find parking. Now, finally, we again have the joys of seeing whole faces, bumping elbows and even getting a hug.

As co-chair of the College Park Seniors Committee, I have experienced how the pandemic has underscored some of the issues we have been addressing. Our goal is to make College Park an age-friendly community that offers affordable housing, transportation services and opportunities for socializing through partnerships with the university and local clubs, businesses, faith communities and civic associations. We want to strengthen the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program to assist seniors, reduce their isolation and encourage intergenerational cooperation. And we recognize opportunities to share our homes with graduate students in exchange for companionship and assistance.

We have all benefited from better public health measures, and I hope we will continue to wash our hands, keep our distance and wear masks when advised. The pandemic has encouraged so many of us to develop camaraderie in new ways as we stayed at home, and we can cherish and encourage virtual opportunities to connect. We have learned to work together over distances, share ideas and opinions, become entrepreneurial and, I hope, listen to each other and accept different viewpoints. We are stronger together, and I think we have realized the value of that.

So as we approach the new year, I trust we will continue to think of others, do all we can to strengthen our ties and make College Park an even better place to live — not in spite of, but because of our differences.