How The Pandemic Could Affect Our Future

Dr. Joe Coughlin, Founder and Director, MIT AgeLab tkc.profilePicture Written by: Dr. Joe Coughlin, Founder and Director, MIT AgeLab | Transamerica
May 11, 2020

5 Min readClock Icon

The effects of COVID-19 on our lives today are enormous, but my team at the AgeLab is also keeping on an eye on how the pandemic will affect life tomorrow. Even when the crisis is long over, it may be that its effects stay with us in ways both large and small.

To begin getting a sense of that future, we asked people whether they believed that the pandemic would have a lasting impact on various domains of life. Baby Boomers were less moved to believe that the crisis will leave a long-term imprint than other generations, but regardless of age, more than half of our respondents believed that COVID-19 would change the field of education, the future of the workplace, the use of home delivery services, and even how we socially interact in general.

The sense that the pandemic would last past its official endpoint also emerged in responses to questions about returning to normal life after the crisis is declared over. Significant numbers of respondents said they would wait over a month before recommencing activities like dining out or jumping into a Lyft or Uber. Most strikingly, over half would wait a month or more before flying again, suggesting our collective willingness to travel may be significantly curtailed in the future.

What’s more, the reported inclination to wait before jumping back into life was highest among those living in large cities, and lowest for those in rural areas, suggesting that both the material and psychic impacts of the pandemic may vary based on how residential density has shaped people’s experiences during this pandemic. Get more details in our infographic, “Impacts of COVID-19: Looking Beyond the Peak."

Yet despite how difficult things may seem today, respondents were most likely to report believing that their lives would be better in the next year. There’s no doubt that optimism, a major component of resilience, is key for getting through difficult times such as these. But perhaps these respondents also have good reason for their sunny outlook. I happen to have my own sort of optimistic prediction: a belief in the possibility that this crisis will teach us something about ourselves and our society, and that it will provide insights that will help us to imagine better ways to live, work, and play.


Transamerica Resources, Inc. is an Aegon company and is affiliated with various companies which include, but are not limited to, insurance companies and broker dealers. Transamerica Resources, Inc. does not offer insurance products or securities. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, ERISA, tax, investment, legal, medical or financial advice or guidance. Please consult your personal independent professionals for answers to your specific questions.

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