Older people are at higher risk than ever before, and it's not just because of the novel coronavirus.
Our older family members are spending more time by themselves during these unusual times. And while we understand the value of social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19, seniors, in particular, are likely to suffer from loneliness, depression, and similar challenges when faced with long periods of isolation.
We know the unusual circumstances has created unexpected trials for older folks and their families. If you've seen the news in the last week, you know that it has become a necessity for nursing homes in the United States to go on lockdown.
But with a team of professionals that are well versed in senior care, we believe we can help you maintain the well-being of your loved ones. With this article, we're going to discuss five creative ways seniors can beat isolation while practicing social distancing.
The Harmful Effects of Senior Isolation
Human beings are naturally social creatures. Isolation and loneliness can affect anyone — at any age — but they're especially challenging for an older adult.
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIH) research, social isolation among seniors is linked to severe health conditions like:
- high blood pressure
- cognitive decline
- and Alzheimer's disease
Social activity and engagement are incredibly valuable tools for slowing or even preventing those types of chronic conditions. Still, it can be a challenge to stay engaged and active during times of crisis. That's why we've created a list of ways seniors can beat these isolation-related issues.
1. Stay Busy & Active
Move Your Body as Much as You Can
One of the best pieces of advice we can give during these unprecedented times is to stay as physically active as possible! While social distancing may keep us from attending worship services, shopping, and other non-essential activities, we can still get outside in our yards and neighborhoods for fresh air and sunshine.
Consider taking up a light exercise routine a few days a week (just clear it with your healthcare provider first). Seniors should stay close to home, avoid crowds, and maybe explore a new outdoor hobby like gardening. Gardening provides excellent physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits (we've even blogged about it before).
Small Home Projects Keep Us Active and Bring a Sense of Fulfillment
If you've been wondering how to fill your hours during periods of isolation, consider tackling little projects around the house you've been putting off. Need ideas? Try:
- organizing and cleaning out closets
- putting your pantry in order
- cleaning the refrigerator
- organizing tool sheds and workbenches
- creating family photo albums or scrapbooking
Maybe you're not in the mood to take on a household project. We understand! There are other ways to keep yourself active during COVID-19.
Play Games to Keep Your Mind Busy
Traditional card games, puzzles, and board games are great for stimulating our minds and keeping us busy. Have you tried video games yet? They can be a blast! They're so much fun that more mature adults are getting into video games every day!
Though you can play video games alone, they are great for building a social connection with others in a lighthearted and meaningful way. If you're not sure where to start, get some advice from a child or grandchild about which consoles are easiest to set up, and which games they may have already.
There are even handheld consoles that are both portable and easy to use! It's a modern way to stay connected with family, no matter where they live.
Keeping connected with friends and family is crucial right now!
2. Socialize During Isolation
Just because we can't attend the same meetings, clubs, or outings because of social distancing orders, we can still socialize.
- Make phone calls to family often (don't text — it's not the same as hearing your loved ones' voices)
- Write letters and cards
- Set up recurring times to check-in with family regularly. You can use tools like FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom for a more personal video experience!
- Consider learning a new social media tool like Instagram or Facebook to boost your social time and reconnect with friends and family
Remember, you don't need to spend a bunch of money to stay active and engaged right now. There are plenty of tools at your disposal; you just need to get creative!
3. Use What You Have
Walks Are Awesome!
The World Health Organization's social distancing requirements mean we must stay away from others to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But we don't need to stay indoors all the time. Take a relaxing walk around your neighborhood or even around your own home to get some fresh air and sunshine. Your body will thank you!
- If parks in your area are open, it's okay to visit them as long as you don't group up with others.
- Don't go to parks, beaches or similar areas if they are closed.
- Always let someone know if you're heading out for a walk. Let them know where you'll be going, and a rough estimate of how long you'll be gone.
Don't Forget to Read
Literature can provide solace during isolation. Even if you've read them many times before, your old books and magazines offer a chance to occupy your mind and provide valuable benefits to your health.
Seniors who read often can improve memory and cognitive function, and whittle away at hours that would have otherwise felt lonely during isolation. Consider ways to share your favorite books with others, like online forums and book clubs.
4. Stay Optimistic
We know social distancing is challenging, and news media makes us feel uneasy. But even though things are difficult right now, we can still practice joy and gratitude. Consider the positive effects of the current coronavirus pandemic:
- The reduced commuting times and social distancing means our air is cleaner, and our environment is under less strain for natural resources like oil.
- Our government has been working at all levels to provide increased economic stability for everyone.
- The pandemic has highlighted the value of essential workers — grocery store clerks and truckers are experiencing a new level of respect for their jobs.
- Families are spending more time together.
- Americans are finding new and inventive ways to occupy their time, like video games, hobbies, and home improvements.
Limit News Media
As we mentioned before, news reports make us nervous. That's because they're fraught with scary statistics and biased opinions. Try to limit the time you spend watching the news — once or twice a day is plenty! Realize that news media is designed to keep you watching, so set a time limit and turn it off after a while.
- Seek non-biased sources for your daily news, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a quality resource for coronavirus information.
Limit your exposure to news media during the coronavirus pandemic. You'll be happier, we promise!
5. Think Outside the Box
Sometimes even our best intentions to stay active and create social contact with others can get foiled by uncontrollable challenges like bad weather or illness. There are other ways to spend your time if you're stuck indoors alone. Consider trying virtual tours of museums, zoos, and aquariums for some quality, meaningful entertainment. Or even try working with new arts and crafts.
Try Virtual Tours
Virtual tours can be a fun way to experience culture during isolation. A quick internet search for any significant museum or installation (like the Vatican) will bring up plenty of virtual tours to take.
- The world-famous Louvre in Paris is our favorite. It's home to world-class exhibitions and legendary pieces like the Mona Lisa. Take the free tour here.
Visit Live Cams
We like the Georgia Aquarium's live cameras. You can watch various sea creatures go about their day in the aquarium, even a beluga whale! There are several webcams to choose from, and we find them both exciting and soothing. They're a great way to take a break from endless news anchors and overwhelming statistics when you're stuck inside.
We hope this article has provided you with some fresh ideas to stay stimulated during the coronavirus outbreak.
Do you have some other great ideas we didn't cover here? We'd love to hear about them! Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seniors can beat the challenges of isolation during periods of social distancing. If you need help caring for a loved one, or have questions about elder care during these unusual times, reach out to Weatherly Inn today. We're here to help in any way we can.
Related Reading & Resources: