The coronavirus pandemic has thrust the world into a crisis affecting every sector of society imaginable. People have been told to stay home and leave only when absolutely necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus disease.
That’s OK if you’re stuck inside with loved ones. But what about those who are alone for what could be weeks or even months? According to statistics from pharmaceutical giant Merck, half of everyone 85 and older in the U.S. (living outside institutions) resides alone. Overall, 30% of older people live solo.
Not everyone who lives alone is isolated, but being unable to meet up with friends and family can shut off valuable emotional interactions. It exacerbates physical and mental health issues that some older people suffer when living alone.
But all of us can help this situation. Even if we can’t be within 6 feet of each other during this time of “social distancing,” there are things we can do to connect with solitary older folks and help them cope with the coronavirus crisis.
1. Do their yard work
Now that it’s spring, the trees are budding, the weeds are popping, and our winter-bare gardens are ready to explode with more vegetation than many of us prefer. Many elders love working on their gardens. But, if they are playing it safe by staying inside, do them a favor and help them get their yards ready for summer.
Good Housekeeping has a handy list of early spring chores. You can offer to lend a hand with some, including:
- Lawn care
- Trimming dead, dying or diseased branches
- Clearing garden beds of fallen leaves and debris
- Cleaning patios and decks
2. Play games together online
There are several ways you and a solitary senior can get into a rousing board game over the internet, Lifehacker reports. A few examples:
You can also guide older friends or relatives toward online games they can enjoy on their own. Some free ideas:
3. Talk, text and make video calls
Of course, there are always regular old phone calls and texts, for more chill methods of communication.
4. Get groceries
Older folks might not have built up a stockpile of food, medicine and other essential items to ride out the COVID-19 crisis at home.
Some grocery stores have special shopping hours for seniors, to help them avoid exposure to greater numbers of people. But, folks who don’t want to venture out may appreciate you offering to hit the stores for them.
Be prudent to follow safety precautions while you shop: Maintain 6 feet of distance from other shoppers, keep your hands clean with hand sanitizer or wipes, don’t pay with cash and shop during off-peak hours if you can.
As for the safety of the groceries themselves, the Centers for Disease Control spokesperson tells Time magazine that:
“[Currently] there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging. However, you should always wash your hands before and after handling food. The CDC also recommends you wash your hands again after you unload your groceries, and clean kitchen surfaces like countertops, cabinet handles and light switches.”
These tips will help you and your loved ones shop smart during the crisis.
Even safer, arguably, is to help seniors order grocery deliveries online where that option is available. Some grocery chains and independents offer home delivery or will fill your phoned order for curbside pickup.
Other dedicated grocery delivery services include:
5. Encourage online workouts
One of the toughest things about being cooped up at home is that it may jeopardize your exercise routine. Exercise is vital to helping seniors maintain strength, balance, energy levels and a positive mood. For your older friends and family whose regular gym trips have been scuttled, you can help them find alternatives.
Here are sources of free exercise videos tailored to older adults:
- AARP has 10-minute, beginner-friendly demonstrations.
- The YMCA has many video classes, including for active older adults.
- The National Institute on Aging’s Go4Life also offers a variety of free exercise videos.
- Silver Sneakers, an online exercise program included free with many Medicare plans, has some 200 videos.
If you’re communicating online with seniors you know, point them to a few video workouts you think they might be interested in. If they need it, help them register and navigate these websites.
So, find a way to connect with an older person isolated at home — or with anyone who can use your help, for that matter. And check out MoneyTalksNews’ many articles about how to manage your life and your money during the coronavirus pandemic.