By Kathryn LeBrasseur, Alexandria, MN

“It was the best of times! It was the worst of times!” As an English-social studies teacher for 27 years, those words from Charles Dickens in his classic “Tale of Two Cities” definitely come to mind. Bet most of you had it as required reading. Panic and fear and isolation and unemployment have definitely made this the “worst” of times for many. But the unbelievable breakthroughs of technology provide promise that the future may provide for the “best” in many ways!

“Staying in place” has definitely restored some old-time routines. They are a blessing we hope will continue. Walking has recreated neighborhoods. People are getting to know their neighbors and are offering a helping hand where needed. Once again, grocery stores are delivering groceries! In the old days, we also had the milkman and the iceman. Listening in on the telephone party line was fun! Now we have cell phones and computer messaging. We can even see each other when talking!

I never used a computer until I retired from the county. Then my husband and I bought a used one and learned to play games on it. Eventually email came along and we used Skype when my son was overseas. That isn’t enough. In reality, I have learned to do more things, with the help of my grandkids and more are on the horizon. We have telemedicine, where a doctor can provide a “home visit” when we are ill. We have 24-hour service for trained personnel to come to our home if we have depression or other mental issues. Our kids are going to school “online” and getting their education. And we definitely have “games” for entertainment.

During this time of social distancing, I have been able to participate in meetings of groups that I belong to. This even relates to attending church online. Programs such as Zoom allow us to meet together and see, as well as talk, to each other. Music students receive lessons that way and agents talk to their customers that way.

This is just the start of it all. It is miraculous. To we old folks, it is overwhelming though! A great many do not have computers. If they do, they don’t know how to access many programs. In reality, that includes the majority of the “over 70” crowd. We are blessed that our local media, newspapers and radio, understand that. Unbelievably, the way things change every day, it is miraculous that the Echo can get the news and have it in print within hours. Bet they are using technology! Same thing with our local radio stations. They routinely help our older group stay informed.

There will be many classes on how to do these “fancy things.” Students are being provided with laptops. Cable companies are giving the service free of charge. Neighborhoods are informing we “old folks” on changes. However, be aware that the scammers are way ahead of us. We are already afraid to answer the phone! We have to be aware of computer scams as well. But we don’t have to fear isolation. Neighbors and technology will keep us in the loop!

Scientists are discovering new planets. Study is being conducted under the ocean. I used to believe in some items in “Chariot of the Gods” where aliens invaded our area and built pyramids, etc. Now they need to hang on! We may be the “aliens” invading other planets. We have the know-how!

Hopefully, we are creating the “best of times” as our entire world works together to help each other battle a common enemy. It definitely provides a challenge for all.

Kathryn LeBrasseur is a former executive director of the Alexandria Senior Center and has been involved in a variety of community organizations, many focusing on senior issues. “In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.