COVID-19 and Senior Loneliness: Tips for Decreasing Social Isolation
Senior isolation has long been an issue in the United States. Even before stay at home orders and social distancing policies were enacted to curtail the spread of COVID-19, many of America’s senior citizens have been grappling with feelings of chronic loneliness.
Under today’s stringent new guidelines for social interaction, which is particularly rigorous for the vulnerable elderly population and those in nursing facilities, the issue has become even more problematic. If an aging loved one is struggling with isolation issues, there are a number of things that can help combat these feelings. In this article, we’ve compiled some smart ways you can remain connected and show how much you care.
Check in regularly. Contact your elderly relative as often as you can throughout the week via phone or video chat, if possible. Does he or she have enough food, household goods, and cleaning products? Even if their cupboards and fridge are sufficiently full, consider dropping off a special treat or basket of goodies.
Send a snail mail greeting. Older family members and friends are likely to appreciate handwritten cards and letters more than any other age group. When they feel lonely or blue, re-reading the correspondence can provide a needed pick-me-up and a reminder of how much you care.
Enjoy a virtual meal together. Order up—and pay for—a tasty repast for the two of you to share. What type of cuisine does your loved one prefer? Choose some indulgent Italian cuisine or down-home southern barbeque through a meal delivery service such as Doordash or Grubhub. When it arrives, call your loved one so you can chat during the meal. Make sure he or she knows how to use the speakerphone feature on the cellphone or landline phone so the dining experience can be its most enjoyable.
Encourage your loved one to help others. Using a skill to assist others can provide rewarding feelings of purpose at any age. Knitting, crocheting, hand or machine-sewing are all skills that are in demand right now. Older generations are often experts at these kinds of crafts, so it’s a wonderful time to put those talents to good use. MakeVictoryMasks.org and the Knitting Guild are just two of the many organizations that are seeking volunteers to make masks, blankets, hats and more.
Order a jigsaw puzzle. If your loved one is a puzzle lover, have one delivered that’s suitable for his or her abilities. While some contain 2,000 or more pieces, there are also jigsaw puzzles available with as few as 15 pieces, which might work well for individuals with dementia, reduced vision, or less dexterity. Mail order companies exist that specialize in custom puzzles from photographs, so consider having one created using a shot of your entire family.
Use the internet to travel. Does your loved one have a smartphone or access to the internet? If so, they can take a free virtual trip to almost anywhere in the world. Museums, tourist sites, national parks, other countries and cities are all just a click away. Check out Travel and Leisure’s Twelve Famous Museum Tours, for example.
Connect them to religious services. Mass gatherings are banned for now, but many Baltimore-area churches and places of worship are still holding services online. If your loved one is a member of a specific house of worship, check to see if they’re streaming their religious services. Encourage your senior to tune in if they’re able. If that’s not an option, many radio and TV stations also air religious services.
Remember, we are all in this together. The COVID-19 pandemic may ultimately serve to deepen connections between generations and across communities. For now, do what you can to help your elderly loved one to remain healthy, active and involved.
If you have concerns about senior isolation during the COVID-19 crisis or want to learn more about how you can help a loved one, please contact us. Our compassionate, caring team is always available and happy to assist.
About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.