We all know by now that staying at home is the best course of action seniors can take to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19. After hunkering down at home these past few weeks, many seniors can’t help starting to feel some loneliness and perhaps isolation. These times of self-quarantine may be particularly traumatic for a senior in a residential community that has had to restrict visitors and suspend social activities and dining room meals.
Even seniors who are being assisted by a family caregiver or a paid caregiver in their own home also may start experiencing loneliness from social activities being curtailed or grappling with some stress or anxiety from watching or reading news about the virus.
If you or a senior loved one is starting to experience the negative effects of being confined to home (aka Cabin Fever), try some of these ideas for feeling less stress and anxiety and finding ways to maintain positive connections with others. A family member or a friend to an older person can also adopt these tips to help support a beloved senior’s mental health during COVID-19.
Go on a News Diet
Yes, it’s good to stay informed but feeding on continuous breaking news on any or all of the many 24-hour news stations and websites or absorbing the heated exchanges between pundits is a certain recipe for needless anxiety. Ten to thirty minutes will keep you up to date – so limiting your news time to once or twice per day is recommended.
Have Virtual Visits with Family and Friends
Facebook, FaceTime, Skype, Twitter, Zoom – there are all loads of free smartphone or online options for seeing and talking to friends and family from the comfort of your home. If setting up an account is a little out of your skill set, a tech-savvy friend, family member or caregiver may be able to do it for you. If you want to keep it simple, merely pick up the phone. Either way, make sure to schedule regular visits for keeping in touch with those that matter most.
Stay Connected with Community Organizations
If you have enjoyed volunteer or charitable work for a community group, there may still be opportunities to take part, flex your civic duty and maintain a sense of purpose. A variety of organizations – from church groups to political parties to nonprofits – need volunteers to make phone calls. Check in with some of your favorites to see if you may be able to help.
Join an Online Book Club
There are lots of online book clubs beyond Oprah’s, with many of them offering a chance to create virtual friendships and get tips on downloading free books and audiobooks. The Good Housekeeping Book Room lets you discuss books with fellow readers around the world. The Action Book Club from Little Free Library lets you join with friends, family, an organization you belong to or your own book club and provides a kit with lists of books, discussion questions, lots of activities and resources.
Gather Around for a Virtual Meal
Make a lunch or dinner date with friends or family. Select a day and time and then order a meal to be delivered through a service such as DoorDash or Grubhub or a favorite local restaurant that provides delivery. Try and make sure the meal gets to each home at the same time. Then call to talk during the meal, using the speaker on the cell phone or landline phone or using a mobile app like FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom.
Have a Board Game Night
Pick a game that everyone is familiar with, has at home, and knows the rules to – think Monopoly, Life, Sorry, chess, bingo, Yahtzee, etc. Have identical game boards set up at each home. Play the game over the phone by using the speaker on the cell phone or landline phone and talking about the dice roll and game piece moves.
Watch the Same TV Show Together
Choose a popular series or something completely new, a game show like Jeopardy! or Wheel of Fortune or a even a documentary. Tune in at the same time and swap comments or guesses over the phone as you watch from different households. As hard as it is, try to pick something that everyone is interested in.
Tell Stories Over the Phone
Set up a regular time when you can read a book to or tell a bedtime story to your grandchildren. Or, ask them to read you a story, sing a song or play an instrument. Have a family singalong or let the kids put on a personal show for you.
Help Others with Experience and Engagement
When there are problems to be solved and advice to be gotten, culture often looks to its senior members for their wisdom and experience. Taking a small step – like calling neighbors, friends and family to check in on them – will give you something constructive to do during this time of crisis and help you keep socially engaged.