Staying Connected In the Age of Covid and Why It's Important for Seniors
Seniors today often remain independent well into their golden years. Currently, approximately 27% of seniors over 60 in the United States live alone, and those who live with someone regularly have only one partner sharing their residence. While staying independent is a goal that can help seniors stay motivated to maintain their health, it does come with the potential risk of social isolation.
Before COVID, seniors who lived alone could feel comfortable dining in restaurants and visiting other public venues to get some socialization. Unfortunately, the pandemic brought serious concerns about mingling in crowds, which has changed the way seniors can reach out for companionship. Finding ways to help seniors stay connected to friends and family during the age of COVID makes it possible for them to feel supported as they enjoy life after retirement.
What Are the Biggest Risks of Social Isolation?
Social isolation leads to facing many of life’s challenges alone. Without someone to talk to, a senior can begin feeling like their problems are impossible to resolve. Since the pandemic began, approximately one in five older adults say that their mental health has worsened. Seniors who live alone may experience more anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders that might be eased with professional treatment and companionship.
When seniors develop mental health disorders that are worsened by social isolation, they also become at higher risk of developing a substance use disorder. The American Association of Retired Persons found that one in ten seniors who drink alcohol did so while using other drugs such as pain medications and sleeping pills. Since most pain and sleep medications also have a sedative effect, combining them with alcohol increases the risk of an overdose. On top of making sure that seniors receive proper mental health treatment for substance use disorder, providing them with social support can round out their plan for healthier living.
How Can You Help Senior Loved Ones Stay Connected?
Social distancing became a new catchphrase during the early days of the pandemic, but people often take it out of context. While seniors may need to stay physically distant from other people to protect themselves against illness, this doesn’t mean that they can’t continue to socialize. The key to helping them avoid becoming isolated is to think outside of the box. Even waving hello to a neighbor can provide a quick boost of socialization that lifts a senior’s mood.
Agree Upon a Plan for Safety Precautions
People have responded to the pandemic with varying reactions that often come down to their level of risk tolerance for being exposed to the virus. Even among people who are within the same age group, there can be a wide range of opinions regarding how to stay safe, since a person’s risk tolerance is often guided more by genetics and personal experiences than by their age.
Family members and other caregivers who spend time with seniors can work together to make sure that everyone feels safe. For instance, a senior may prefer to know that anyone who visits them takes extra precautions, such as wearing a mask or washing their hands as soon as they enter their residence. A senior might also want to agree with their companions to leave a public venue if any one of them begins to feel unsafe. Creating an agreement helps seniors know that their needs will be met as they venture out into new social situations.
Schedule Virtual Family Celebrations
Staying in touch with friends and family members can help seniors prevent depression and other health conditions that are associated with isolation. Seniors who aren’t comfortable spending time with younger members of their family who may have a higher risk of exposure to the virus due to work or school activities can still connect with the closest members of their social circle through virtual meetings. For example, you could host a virtual birthday party for your child so that their grandparent can be there.
Invite Them to a Video Call
Video chats can make it feel like everyone is in the same room, and seeing their loved ones' faces can bring joy to a senior’s day. Seniors who live alone and aren’t going out much may welcome daily chats to lift their spirits. Others may be fine with only talking to their loved ones once or twice a week provided that they have other social contacts to keep them happy. During video calls, family members can check for signs that their loved one may be feeling the effects of isolation so that they can make a plan to get them help.
Explore Online Classes and Clubs for Seniors
Many seniors had to give up their favorite activities during the shutdowns. However, the fact that more businesses and charitable organizations opened up access to more seniors by offering virtual options is a silver lining in the clouds of the pandemic. Seniors can search online for book clubs, fitness classes, and other hobbies that allow them to connect with other members and their instructors online.
Plan Socially Distanced Outings
Being outdoors remains the safer choice for planning large and small group gatherings during the age of COVID. While masks may not be required outside, seniors may still want to protect themselves from exposure to the virus by making sure that they can stay at least two meters away from other people. Taking a walk in the park, visiting a community botanical garden, and watching an outdoor concert are a few ways for seniors to be around other people without feeling too crowded.
If you are planning to take out a senior for a social event, be sure you arrange for safe transportation and bring along masks and sanitizer in case they aren’t available.
While many people are returning to their former normal activities, many seniors are still cautious about being exposed to the coronavirus. Asking seniors about their mental health and general level of social activity is a great place to start by making sure that they don’t experience prolonged periods of isolation that interfere with their wellbeing. By emphasizing the importance of staying connected for seniors, it’s possible to make sure that no older adult feels lonely when the world is filled with so many people who care.
Considering Senior Housing?
If you would like to start looking for a Senior Housing Community that fits your loved one’s budget, call our Senior Advisors today. Our Advisors will ask you a few questions about where your loved one would like to live, what amenities they would like and what their budget is. Then our Advisors will search for communities that match and help you set up community tours. Just one phone call can put you in contact with all the locations in your area that best match your needs. Call today: 1-888-904-1990.
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Alternatives for Seniors
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Housing options include: Senior Apartments, Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care and Nursing/Rehab Centers
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