Navigating the pandemic over the past two years has certainly shown us all how important it is to have a vibrant social life. When social interaction is missing, it is easier to see just how essential it is for our health and well-being. While there has been plenty of discussion about the value of keeping kids in school to support their social development, we may not realize how powerful healthy connections are for everyone, especially our seniors.
Study after study confirms the benefits of social interaction for elderly people. Seniors with an active social life live longer, avoid depression and stave off disease. During the pandemic, seniors lost their social connections, and statistics are showing that they are paying a steep price. Socially reengaging our older family and friends is a top priority for ensuring their health and happiness.
However, since many seniors are at higher risk for developing complications, reentering the world of social connection may seem intimidating. Regardless of what the rest of the world is doing, seniors with health problems or compromised immune systems should continue taking precautions. However, the importance of social connections for seniors cannot be overstated. Here are some ideas for seniors to start interacting again safely and comfortably.
1. Continue To Embrace Technology
Lockdown had us all using technology in new and innovative ways, and that includes seniors. There is no reason to stop using technology to stay in touch with people, especially loved ones who are far away. By embracing technology as a tool of connection, we can continue to emphasize the importance of social life for seniors, even when those connections are long-distance. While it was a necessity to maintain the distance that technology provides at the beginning of the pandemic, we can continue to lean on that technology to make our seniors’ worlds that much richer. The expertise older folks acquired can continue to serve them well as they work to fully reengage in social life.
Many seniors used the telephone and face-to-face video calling when in-person visits became difficult. These types of interaction continue to be a terrific way to engage seniors in social connection and eliminate any health risk for them. Additionally, video conferencing allows virtual attendance at all types of social gatherings where in-person attendance may feel too risky. Setting seniors up with technology that allows for virtual meetings can encourage elderly social interaction in a very safe environment.
2. Go Slow
It may be time to start going out in the world again. Just because the world has “opened up,” though, doesn’t mean you should throw away your masks and pretend everything is normal. Take it slow. Begin with what is comfortable for you, and continuing to wear your mask and wash your hands often is still a reasonable precaution. Perhaps a slower reentry would be more comfortable. Try a quick trip to a small market or an outdoor location for your first trip out.
3. Limit Your Social Exposure
Elderly social interaction does not need to begin with huge parties with lots of people. Start by meeting one or two other people, for a chat or a simple game. These kinds of interactions will allow you to keep your distance and keep your mask on if you’d like. You can be social without exposing yourself to too much risk.
4. Take a Walk
If you are up for it, taking a walk along a sidewalk or paved trail could be a great way to connect safely with friends and family. Open air has a low transmission rate, and this can be an opportunity for everyone to take their masks off and let their smile be seen.
5. Visit Large Indoor Locations
While being outside is safest, the weather may preclude you from pursuing an outdoor location. If the weather where you are is uncomfortable, perhaps an airy indoor location would be better. An indoor mall that is not crowded, for instance, can allow for plenty of room for social distancing while offering opportunities for socialization and exercise. It can also provide a feeling of connection to the community, even from a safe 6 feet away.
6. Consider Take-Out and Drive-Ins
You or your senior loved one may be longing for some favorite treats but may not be ready to remove their mask in an indoor restaurant. A take-out dinner, which can be eaten at home with a friend or two, can be a safe way to encourage elderly social interaction without causing anxiety. A ride in the car to pick up a treat at the drive-thru may be another way to begin to get back to normal with less risk.
Many communities have organized activities that embrace social distancing. For instance, attend a drive-in movie where you can stay in the comfort and safety of your car. This is particularly helpful for seniors with mobility challenges.
For more ideas on how to safely care for your elderly loved ones, visit the Vital Home Health Services website.