“The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us that human connection can spread illness. But human connection also promotes wellness.” – Kasley Killam
Right now, I am encouraged by observing people out and about. Kids ride scooters and skateboards while their parents hustle to keep pace behind them. Couples walk the dog after they’ve shut down their work-from-home offices and catch up on their day. I am especially encouraged when I see my elderly neighbors sitting out on the porch or taking a slow stroll to the mailbox at the end of the drive. Just the other day, an elderly widow stood at her door, waiting for me to pass by so that she could wave. I waved vigorously, as did she.
These are small things, I know. No panacea for the pandemic or magic pill for loneliness or isolation. But consistent connection in any form helps maintain the thread that holds us together, keeping depression and despair at bay. This matters so much that we need to stay on it, for ourselves and for those around us, especially the elderly. The Administration on Aging (AoA), reminds us that just 15 minutes a day of in-person or virtual connection can counteract loneliness. Every one of us can manage 15 minutes, in fact, we must. But help, helps. Knowing that we are supported and encouraged by others makes us feel cared for and keeps us going. You think: But what can I do?
The great news is that you don’t need any “super skills” to help; you already have what you need, simply by being a caring human.
Help Seniors Stay Connected and Active
If you have senior family members or friends, you can help them stay connected and active in small ways that can make a big difference:
Reach out. The single, most important action you can take is to simply reach out. Call, Facetime, send a card in the mail. However you extend yourself, know that you may be helping them to ward off loneliness, especially if they live alone. Take it a step further and bring by a potted plant or consider another small gesture that lets them know you have not forgotten them.
Perform an Act of Kindness. If ever there was a time for spontaneous kindness, this is it! Offer to run an errand, to walk their dog, or do a chore. Consider the person, of course, but remember that it is absolutely the thought that matters more than the gesture right now. “Alice, I’m running to the supermarket. What can I pick up for you?” It’s as simple as that.
Encourage Engagement. Use positive reinforcement to help seniors develop the good habits that keep them connected and active: “It’s great to see that you’re getting outside again, Sylvia.” or “Looks like you are getting in some steps today. Good for you!” or, “I bet your granddaughter would love to hear that you’re feeling better.” Just the fact that you are showing interest and a caring attitude reinforces connection and the good habits that keep all of us strong in body, mind, and spirit!