Supporting Older Adults During Social Distancing

Camila Dos Santos, M.Ed., Program Coordinator of the Healthy Relationships Initiative

Social distancing has prompted us all to significantly reduce or eliminate face-to-face interactions with those outside of our homes.  While it is important to continue to follow social distancing and other important guidelines associated with stopping the spread of the coronavirus, we must also be intentional and proactive about how we connect and support loved ones.  In this post, we will provide tips for how to proactively support older adults during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Share vetted resources that help older adults cope with negative emotions and engage in proactive healthy activities.  With limited face-to-face social interactions, it is important for older adults to spend time engaging in activities that keep them balanced and emotionally and physically healthy.  To ease anxiety, share articles that provide tips for coping with stress. For older adults who can no longer continue their regular physical activity, send them tips for staying active to help promote a healthy lifestyle from home. By sharing reliable resources, you can help older adults stay healthy while social distancing. 

Help them avoid scams.   Older adults are even more susceptible to being scammed in times of crisis.  Help them avoid scams by providing factual information and keeping them up to date on different scams happening both locally and nationally.  It can also be beneficial to help older adults set up online banking accounts so they can monitor their finances without having to visit the bank.  When talking to older adults about scam risks, make sure you listen attentively to their concerns. It may be helpful to check out some strategies for adults to talk to their parents  about scamming to avoid any negative feelings, such as shame or embarrassment.  

Regularly demonstrate your love and concern. There is perhaps nothing more important than regularly demonstrating our support and concern to the people we love.  While we all benefit from feeling loved and supported, older adults especially need to feel this during a time of crisis. Call, video chat, and text regularly to let them know you are thinking about them.  Sending a care package with their favorite items or a handwritten letter can help brighten their day. Being consistent and intentional when showing love will help stay connected even in social distancing. Involving the rest of the family in these efforts can help everyone feel the positive effects of a strong support system, so encourage children to reach out to their older loved ones, create drawings for them, or teach them how to play an online video game. 

Many older adults have been dealing with the negative effects of social isolation long before the age of social distancing and many family members have supported older loved ones in preventing loneliness before the coronavirus pandemic began. However, it is more important than ever to be intentional about reaching out and connecting with the older adults that we love.  By practicing these tips regularly and intentionally, they will feel more supported during a time of extreme uncertainty.   



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