The American Association of Retired Persons highlighted in a recent press release that elderly isolation can be as risky as smoking 15 cigarettes every day. Ironically, we are now faced with a dilemma. In our attempts to prevent COVID-19 in the elderly, we don’t want to increase their death rate from 26 to 45% by making them feel lonely (1, 2).
How can we help the elderly cope with social distancing amidst current public measures for coronavirus prevention?
Family and caregivers can prevent elderly isolation
There are many ways we can prevent the effects of elderly isolation. This is especially important during the coronavirus outbreak. But family and caregivers should stay away and avoid seeing their older relatives if they have respiratory symptoms or general malaise.
Schools are closed, and many caregivers will be at home taking care of their families. If that’s the case, you can help your older adults by considering these recommendations:
- Help them with shopping: We know coronavirus prevention strategies will linger around for a few months. Older adults will need to keep their food supplies. It is recommended that younger relatives run the errands for them. This will also give them the opportunity to cope with social distancing through personal interaction.
- Don´t lock them up: Older adults need to stay active. Walking around the house counts as being active, and we should not lock them to their bedroom. Encourage them to walk around the garden. Draw their attention to various areas in the house. Make sure they are not immobile for long periods.
- Help them use and understand technology: Social media and videoconference apps are valuable in these trying times. Set aside some time and help older adults understand technology. These gadgets provide a great opportunity to prevent elderly isolation. They can also use the internet for online shopping and to enjoy digital streaming services.
Older adults can cope with social distancing
If you’re an older adult, you can also cope with social distancing. Just consider the following tips:
- Be open to learn new technology: You will use it to stay connected with your loved ones. Ask a relative or a neighbor if you don’t know how to set up an account.
- Stop watching breaking news: They are not helpful in these times of social distancing. You should stay informed, but without enduring repetitive headlines that will only make you anxious.
- Keep engaged with your community: Different faith-based groups and communities are now considering remote options to keep operating. Make phone calls, keep engaged, and collaborate with community-based activities you can do at home.
- Reach out more often: Your relatives are probably not as busy as they used to be. Seize the opportunity and stay in touch. Call, send e-mails, check your family group in WhatsApp.
Coronavirus prevention should not necessarily increase elderly isolation. COVID-19 in the elderly is a growing concern in the world, but we can always keep older adults close to our hearts. If we use strategies, we can cope with social distancing and help each other more effectively in these difficult times.