Across the nation as well as the globe, people are coming up with creative ways to stay connected during the Stay at Home mandates. Many of these opportunities include use of technology programs such as FaceTime, Skype, Zoom meetings and even live church services viewable through the internet. These are great ways to feel connected to one’s community and friends.
Many of our older adult population are tech savvy enough to benefit from the connecting technology, but what about those who live alone and aren’t used to using a computer or smart phone? What about loved ones in facilities that aren’t permitted to have visitors? Here are a few creative ideas to stay connected, many of which can also be done via video calling if they are familiar with its use:
If speaking on the phone is an option here are some ideas for more than the basic “what did you do today” conversation:
Take a few moments prior to making the phone call to think of a reminiscence story from a memory the two of you share. (Ex: that road trip you took and got the flat tire… Or the time your kids set off the smoke alarm cooking you pancakes for your birthday).
Can you play an instrument? Put the phone on speaker and play something for them.
Use another device to play their favorite type of music and have a sing-a-long. Bonus: this could even work with residents in facilities with memory loss. Recruit the help of facility staff to make the phone or FaceTime call. Familiar music is extremely therapeutic, especially to those with cognitive/memory impairments. You may be surprised at how many words or parts of a melody to a favorite song they remember.
Are they a history buff or do they like trivia? Use a trivia game or look up questions on a favorite topic and play over the phone.
Can they speak a different language? Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn? Surprise them by learning a few phrases or words and use it in the phone call.
In a digital age, hand written letters and cards can be even more meaningful. Take the time to write a letter or send printed photos or an interesting article (preferably about a topic other than the pandemic).
If you’re able to go to the post office, mail a puzzle, book or magazine. Bonus: your local bookshop would likely LOVE your business and may even be able to take an order over the phone and ship to them. Or, maybe an online order of chocolates is the way to help them feel connected.
Have grandchildren with local grandparents? (Or know of older adults who’d love a visit) Call to arrange a time for them to be outside or on their porch and put on a parade/dance/singing show from a safe distance. Maybe even bring some groceries to leave for them while you’re there.
Loneliness and isolation occur frequently with older adults in a variety of settings even when we are not enduring a rollercoaster pandemic. This is a great time to take the opportunity to reach out to them. Recruit other family members and friends to do the same. Most of these tasks don’t cost a dime and can be continued even when we’re no longer required to self-isolate.