The COVID-19 pandemic presents daunting challenges for many seniors and other vulnerable populations. Social distancing and shelter-in-place requirements are necessary for their continued health and safety. But with it comes the risk of social isolation, and the mental and physical tolls this can take.
How can older people balance the requirements for social distancing with the inherent need for social engagement? Here are a few recommendations.
Explore new technology
Apps like FaceTime, Zoom and Skype offer fun and interesting ways to connect face-to-face with family and friends, even if it’s a screen version. And most don’t require a terrific amount of tech-savvy: a neighbor, niece or nephew can help with a quick tutorial.
Even popular board games have gone virtual. Classics like Monopoly, Scattergories and Scrabble can be played online together, and there are a host of sites with card games, trivia, and other fun activities to do together. A game night is a great way to bring people closer and take your mind off your worries.
Stay active in the community, from home
It may sound counterintuitive. How can you remain a part of the community if you need to stay separated from it?
Many organizations, like political parties, faith-based groups, or nonprofits, offer remote options, relying on volunteers to make phone calls. Explore your options for doing community-based activity right at home.
Go on a news diet
While it’s important to stay informed, don’t get locked into endlessly watching “breaking news” on the 24-hour news channels. Typically, not much changes hour to hour, and enduring the repetitious pummeling from TV all day long can bring needless anxiety.
Instead, try watching a news update in the morning, then check in again at night. And don’t stay with it all evening: 30 minutes or an hour is usually plenty to stay well informed.
Find a buddy system
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that communities create “buddy systems” to make sure vulnerable and hard-to-reach people stay connected, particularly to news about COVID-19. This can be done through a church group, social group, or daily neighborhood email blasts.
Reach out to people in your communities to locate these groups or start one of your own. Something as simple as a message with a kind word can go a long way during uncertain times.
Make a phone call
All the digital options available today may make a simple phone call seem old fashioned. But sometimes, the old ways are the best ways. Just hearing someone’s voice can be enough to lift both your spirits. Even if you only reach voicemail, you’ve let someone know you were thinking about them, which is always good medicine.
Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation, and even a threat like coronavirus should not force us to be alone. Now, more than ever, people need to find smart ways to stay connected.