Date: Mar, 12 2020
As local Senior and Assisted Living facilities take action to protect residents and tenants by implementing best practices of limiting and screening visitors into the facilities. “Social distancing” is the new phrase that describes most of this, and it goes against what we typically advocate for our older population. As we promote the benefits of social engagement and remind them of the poor health outcomes associated with social isolation. Now, with COVID-19, the times have changed. But along with the risk of coronavirus infection comes the risk of social isolation. How should family and friends of older people balance these competing recommendations?
During a time of social distancing, here are four ways for elders and their loved ones to stay socially connected.
1. Learn or utilize Technology
Portal, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and lots more. All sorts of online options exist to talk with family and friends. And you don’t have to be tech-savvy. Doing the basics is easy, and for most people, fun. If setting up an account is daunting, ask a neighbor, niece or nephew for help or watch a quick tutorial (click on the more info for a PDF with links to some how-to videos).
2. Stay Active in the Community From Home
It may sound counterintuitive. How can you remain a part of the community if the goal is to separate from the community? But maybe there’s a remote option. Many organizations — political parties, faith-based groups, nonprofits like Adoray— rely on volunteers to make phone calls. You can do that clearly community-based activity right at home.
3. Go on a News Diet
Stay informed, know what’s going on but don’t get locked into endlessly watching “breaking news” on the 24-hour news channels. Typically, not much changes hour to hour. But enduring the repetitious pummeling from TV all day long can bring needless anxiety. Our patients have found the following advice helpful: Watch a news update in the morning, then check in again at night. Don’t stay with it all evening — 30 minutes or an hour is plenty.
4. Reach Out to Family & Friends
Stay in touch with the people close to you, especially those who are social distancing too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 your church, social group or daily neighborhood email blasts. And for those of you who are not elderly – why not make it a point to check in on your older friends and relatives? Such thoughtfulness is always greatly appreciated.
Social distancing does not mean social isolation, and even a potentially deadly virus should not force us to be “alone”. Now, more than ever, people need to find smart and safe ways to stay connected.
Please click the more info button for helpful resources from the CDC.