7 ways to help older adults struggling with loneliness
Many elderly or homebound community members struggled with feelings of isolation before the COVID-19 pandemic. As events and other gatherings have been cancelled to help protect people from the virus, many are leaving the house even less and experiencing exasperated feelings of loneliness.
Thankfully, sometimes simple connections can be powerful. Here are 7 safe ways to let them know you care.
- Keep them involved. Try giving homebound or older adults a project they can work on. This could be organizing old photos, making a family recipe or watching home videos or their favorite childhood movie.
- Spend time outside. If you can't safely visit someone indoors, can you visit them outdoors at a distance? In this case, choose a time and location, bring chairs and just relax and enjoy each other's company.
- Check on a neighbor. It can be easy to get tied up in our busy lives and forget to reach out to an elderly friend or neighbor. Make it a point to check in on them throughout the week.
- Write a letter. If you or a loved one doesn't text or email, consider sending a handwritten letter or card to them. If you like to volunteer, letter writing is also a great way to help spread messages of hope.
- Talk on the phone. With all the things we juggle daily, sometimes we forget how meaningful it can be to hear the phone ring and a loved one's voice on the other end. Can you help designate a phone buddy for someone who is homebound or elderly—someone who they can talk to every day, whether it's a person living in the same building or a family member?
- Embrace technology. Technology can be an important tool in combating loneliness and fostering connections. For instance, families can use Skype or other online platforms to allow a relative to join them virtually for dinner or read bedtime stories. This can be a great bonding opportunity.
- Lean on existing support networks. Many older adults already have structures in place that help support their physical and emotional health and wellness, including faith communities, neighborhood or exercise groups and weekly game nights with friends. There are plenty of fitness apps that can help older adults stay active, even if they aren't able to go to their weekly group fitness class. And while it may be harder to play games virtually, socializing with friends, even virtually, is still valuable. In a time of social distancing, these networks can help older adults continue to feel connected.