Social isolation is something all Americans are currently experiencing due to the COVID-19 virus. The good news for many of us is social isolation and distancing is temporary. However, for some older adults, isolation and loneliness are prevalent and can lead to serious health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression.
Here are some tips from the South Florida Institute on Aging (SoFIA) for connecting with vulnerable older adults:
Volunteer Your “Virtual” Time
If you know an elderly adult, connect with them regularly. That’s particularly true for those struggling with technology – call them and walk them through an online program to help connect them with the outside world. Be patient while teaching them how to create a social media account, access FaceTime, download an online game or shop online. If you don’t personally know an elderly person but are technologically savvy, reach out to a local non-profit, like SoFIA, that supports older adults and technology, and ask how you can help.
Reach Out Regularly
With the cancelation of events, work meetings, school and other activities, we all have some time to spare. Call, FaceTime or video conference with an elderly loved one for a few minutes each day. Have them read to your kids, virtually interact with your pet, play a game, discuss a book or simply talk about the day’s events with you. Many older adults wait all day for the opportunity to connect, so make time for them in your daily life not just during this time, but moving forward. Remember that we are now experiencing what older adults, particularly those confined to their home, feel every day and many of them can’t, for whatever reason, take a few minutes to go for a walk. You may be their only lifeline to the outside world.
Make a Donation
Many non-profits would like to help more during times of crisis with new support programs but lack the funds to do so. Consider donating to help an important cause, particularly those that serve the elderly. For example, SoFIA has set up a CoVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to help connect volunteers and elders through technology and more.
Caregivers are under a tremendous strain worrying about transmitting or catching the virus themselves as they work with fragile elders. While you may not be able to interact personally with a loved one in a nursing facility, you can provide a meal or special gift to those who work there. A small act of kindness goes a long way in showing you care.