Amidst this COVID-19 pandemic, we've all felt isolated at times and have sought out ways to safely connect with others. But navigating loneliness isn't easy — especially for seniors who long to be with friends and loved ones. Seniors tend to be more prone to loneliness during the pandemic since many live alone, have significant health risks that require careful isolation or have experienced great societal loss. Many also struggle with technology, making those “easy” ways to connect more difficult.
As vaccines continue to roll out, things will slowly get better. But in the meantime, it's important for seniors to find a daily purpose — a purpose to keep going, keep trying and keep reaching out. Here are some creative ways seniors can feel fulfilled and less isolated, while still staying safe at home:
- Try genealogy: Whether it's online or on paper, discovering your family tree and gathering family memories is a great way to feel connected to loved ones from a distance. Plus, collecting family photos and memories is a great opportunity to reach out and connect with relatives.
- Get artsy: Ever wanted to try macrame? Feel like making your own flower arrangements? Find a new, creative project that can help you have fun while you're at home. Nowadays, there are live, online class options that allow you to learn a new skill while participating and interacting with other class members online. It's a great way to make some new e-friends!
- Adopt a furry friend: While a pet shouldn't be a long-term substitute for human interaction, a furry companion can make days of isolation feel less lonely. Plus, there are several benefits to caring for and spending time with pets. Pets can help you get out of the house, increase physical activity, reduce stress and boost your mood.
For those with an aging loved one or neighbor, it can be difficult to know how to help them feel loved and included without jeopardizing their health with in-person visits. Consider other ways to socialize with the seniors in your life:
- Curb-side visits: From drive-up birthday parties to drive-by celebrations, curb-side visits are a COVID-19 staple.
- Phone calls/video messages: Whether it's a text, phone call or video message, modern technology has provided us with a great way to stay connected to family and friends.
- Outdoor walks: As Santa Clara County and CDC guidelines change, you might consider an outdoor walk — just make sure you stay 6 feet away from others and wear a mask!
- Notes and cards: An older but no less special way to stay in touch.
There are also plenty of other ways to help support parents, grandparents and other loved ones during this difficult time:
- Offer technology assistance: A significant difficulty for some seniors is learning how to use new technology. Take some time to write out instructions to help the seniors in your life navigate FaceTime, Zoom or any other technology they may need to stay connected with loved ones.
- Send a kind message: It's important for our aging loved ones to know how much we care during this difficult time. Take the time to write a hand-written letter and express your love to the seniors in your life — they're sure to appreciate the gesture!
- Help them feel needed: Does your grandpa have an infamous chocolate cake recipe that you've been wanting to try? Or is your aunt really adept at crocheting? Ask for help, suggestions and tips! Not only can you learn a new skill, but you'll help the elders in your life feel valued and appreciated.
There are plenty of ways for seniors to find purpose and connection in day-to-day life, even when socializing is limited. It's not easy to avoid seeing others during times like these, but as more COVID-19 vaccines roll out — and by staying connected in other ways — we can find hope for the future.
This article first appeared in the March 2021 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.