Keeping Seniors "Connected"
Now more than ever we need to check on seniors in our communities. We need social connection to thrive—no matter our age. In this time of social distancing and stay-at-home requirements, social isolation is hard to avoid. Recent research shows that the negative health consequences of chronic isolation and loneliness may be especially harmful for older adults1. As our collective world is driving massive changes to our typical routines, older adults who live alone are especially at risk. And while we can’t invite them over for a cup of coffee, because of the risks of COVID-19, there are other things we can do to help.
Here’s our top 6 recommendations to help seniors avoid the negative health consequences of isolation and loneliness:
- Call. Call your mom, your auntie, your neighbor, your former teacher, your friends. Check in on a senior and see if they need anything. It may be they are too afraid to go to the market for groceries and are unsure of how to order online. Offer to pick some things up or provide some coaching for online ordering. Perhaps they simply need to hear a friendly voice. Who doesn’t like knowing that someone is thinking of them?
- Go for a walk. Walking together while practicing safe distancing is an easy way to spend some quality time together while still respecting each other’s space. The exercise, fresh air and social interaction are good for you both.
- Play an online game. Games like Chess or Words with Friends are not only social, they help to keep the brain active and engaged as well. Mental stimulation and the anticipation of waiting for the next person’s turn helps people stay connected. Set up competitions, challenges and “prizes” (bragging rights?) to keep it interesting. Set regular “game-time” or play throughout the day.
- Share book and movie recommendations. We’re all stuck at home, and a virtual movie or book review provides common ground for conversation. Read the book then watch the movie combos are always interesting. From best-seller lists to revisiting the classics, it’s a great time to catch up on the best - and talk about it. Most libraries offer downloadable content with a card. And cards can be applied for right on the website. Need help getting started? Good Reads has lists, discussion topics, and more. Or go to your local library’s website.
- Use online Meeting Apps. If your senior has a smartphone, tablet or computer, teach them how to use ZOOM, FaceTime, Google Hangouts or any of the other online meeting applications you might be familiar with. With these apps they can see you and feel connected. Have weekly calls with all your family online. This is one of the easiest ways to connect.
- Check in on Medications. Make sure medications are being refilled. Look into setting up home delivery if this is not already in place. Most pharmacies are now offering delivery.
Whether you have a senior in your life that is right next door or 5 states away, there are ways to stay connected and help them avoid isolation and loneliness. You might find you get as much out of it as they do!
- 1 Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks , April 23, 2019, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health And Human Services, https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks