This is a very difficult subject. Not only because of the sheer severity of the situation, but also because this is such an unprecedented situation – especially when it comes to keeping elderly people social.
The coronavirus has attacked our ability to get together and combat loneliness directly at its source, and it is elderly people who are at the frontline of this attack on our personal freedoms. Sadly, the reality is that staying indoors and self-isolating is absolutely vital for our safety, with the advice having now moved from at risk groups, like over 70s, to the general population.
In other words, we all have to stay at home for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, how on Earth do we help the lonely elderly stay social in such a time?
Picking up the phone
The good news is that, as long as you have contact via telephone, then you have everything you need to stay in touch and really make a difference to the lives of your elderly loved ones. In fact, if you want to take things a little further, you could even sign up to a loneliness charity. After all, there could never be a better time to do so.
It may also be worth asking around if there is anyone else who could use a call – if a relative has any friends who are struggling, for instance. Remember that loneliness can have a serious impact on a person’s wellbeing, leading to depression and a serious decline in physical health, according to the NHS. In other words, your efforts really are appreciated and worthwhile.
In terms of the call, you know how to interact with your loved ones better than we do. With that said, it may be worth taking things a little further considering the seriousness of the situation.
For instance, ask if there is a particular time of day they would like to chat, perhaps even more than once a day if they feel that they need it. Your phone call can be something for them to look forward to and organise their day around. Knowing they have someone to talk to later on could make the lonelier hours through the day seem a lot more bearable.
Get creative with your interactions
Another thing to consider is maybe engaging in a joint activity together. We know you are limited over the phone, but maybe you could watch a TV show together and discuss it afterwards or during the break, so you can both feel connected by a common hobby.
Speaking of activities, you’d be amazed at the variety that is available via something like an iPad or other internet-connected device. We know that not everyone has this kind of access, which is why we started this piece by discussing how you could socialise via a more traditional method.
Nonetheless, if you do have such access, there’s plenty of additional options you can take advantage of. One key example is, of course, video calls. Being able to see a person’s face just helps create a social experience and it also means that if you are isolated with other family members, you can all talk as a group.
You can actually do this anyway with group calls on the likes of Skype, Facetime and Facebook Messenger, meaning that several of you can talk at once. This is a wonderful way of getting together and can even provide social interactions that you wouldn’t be able to manage otherwise, pandemic or not. It can bring together groups that live quite literally at opposite ends of the world all in one virtual room.
Play games together
You can go even further than this, as if you and your elderly loved ones have access to online games, you can play all kinds of different things together. This includes online versions of classic games like draughts, chess, scrabble, Monopoly and more. Your catch up can not only be fun but can also keep both of your brains active.
Keeping the mind active is one of the most vital things we can do to help prevent dementia, meaning there’s even more benefits to this kind of activity than just a fun way to catch up. It can be an enjoyable way of really helping the elderly at this difficult time.
These are all just ideas. As we said before, you know your loved ones better than we do and know how best to apply this advice to their hobbies, preferences and your personal relationship. What we wanted to make clear here though is that there’s no shortage of options for communication, even in these difficult times.
It can be hard to find a silver lining in a cloud this dark. However, maybe you can take this opportunity to find new ways of connecting with and helping elderly parents and loved ones, which can carry on long after this sad situation is behind us. There are also other ways you can help the elderly in your community during the coronavirus outbreak.