The coronavirus pandemic shut the country down seemingly overnight. All of a sudden, businesses shut their doors, people stocked up on supplies and employees started working from home. Many states remain on lockdown, and many of us have adjusted to this new, albeit temporary, normal. However, there’s a huge community of people still living with an even stronger sense of isolation, and it consists of older adults. Of course, their isolation is for a good reason — experts have realized COVID-19 is more deadly in patients 65 and older. Many nursing homes and assisted living facilities have shut their doors to keep the virus out and protect their residents. This precaution has probably left your loved ones feeling lonely, though. Fortunately, you can keep everyone connected until the pandemic passes and life resumes. Here’s how to do it:
1. Chat Virtually
This tip is an obvious one, but it may be new for your older relatives. Suggest setting up a video chat session so they can see and talk to you, even if it’s not truly face-to-face. Hopefully, your parent or loved one has a tablet or smartphone that allows them to talk via video. If not, call their care facility to see if they have access to tech that would enable them to call and see you while you talk. Once they download the right apps and get the hang of video chatting, try looping more family members and friends into the conversation. Plan your talks over dinnertime or while you’re all having coffee to make them even more authentic.
2. Play Games
Many older people move into retirement communities because they want to connect with others their age. However, the coronavirus may be preventing them from socializing and hanging out. You can recreate this fun vibe by playing virtual games with your loved one. Let’s face it — we all love to play on our phones, and your older relative or parent is no different. So, find a game you both like and strike up the challenge. It could be a drawing game, virtual Scrabble or poker — whatever you want. Start the competition and enjoy the fun!
3. Send Care Packages
Even if you can’t stop by and see your loved one, you can still show that you care. Perhaps you would regularly visit in person with snacks or supplies. You can still deliver on these treats, even without showing up on your own. Of course, you should make sure your loved ones have the food and necessities they need to endure lockdown. But you can send little gifts and treats to get them through, too. If they live in an assisted living facility, call ahead to see how they’ll handle packages to make sure your parent or friend will receive their gifts in a timely and safe manner.
4. Attend Online Events Together
Depending on your loved one’s tech-savviness, you could suggest attending online events together. Creatives have gotten, well, creative over this period of isolation. As such, there are online concerts, art classes, speaking engagements, cooking lessons and seminars available — just about any activity you can imagine. On top of that, creating together has always been a great way to connect with older loved ones. If you attend these online sessions, you’ll feel super close to them, even if you can’t physically get together.
5. Start a Book Club
Need a good conversation starter? Consider setting up a book club for you, your older loved ones and anyone else in your life that likes to read and chat. If you’ve never led a book club, search online for suggested books to read — ones that will generate conversation. As you research, you’ll probably find potential discussion topics, too. Or, if you’re feeling creative, you can choose the book and come up with questions on your own. Either way, you get a one-two punch by suggesting a book club. First, you’ll keep your loved one engaged with a thought-provoking read. Then, you’ll loop them into a larger conversation about the literature. They might even want to host the next session, giving them a big activity to helm while they’re in isolation.
6. Go Old-Fashioned
When in doubt, go with what you know. There’s nothing wrong with picking up the phone and chatting with your loved ones. Sure, it’s not the same as seeing them in person, but hearing your voice will be enough to brighten their day. You could also roll by for a socially distanced visit. Chat from your car window or walk up to your family member’s window. They can’t come outside for a hug, but they can certainly hear and see you through the glass. Everyone will stay safe, and you’ll give them the social contact that they so need.
Stay Close During the Pandemic
You can’t see your older loved ones in person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend time together. These six ideas can help you stay close, even though the world has forced you apart for the time being. No matter how you connect, you’ll all feel better for it once you hang up the phone. Better yet, you’ll appreciate each other more than ever.