This is one monthly recognition we definitely need to celebrate this year: May is Older Americans Month. The 2020 theme for this annual event is “Make Your Mark,” selected to “encourage and celebrate countless contributions that older adults make to our communities.”
And supporting our older friends and relatives is more vital now than ever, when many of them are staying home alone. Even before we began to quarantine, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report finding that social isolation and feelings of loneliness put older Americans at risk of larger health issues and higher mortality rates.
I know seniors who are afraid to leave their homes, who get all their food and supplies delivered, and whose social connections have been completely severed. We need to remember to reach out to them.
I recently came across a great article in the Washington Post that listed ways to help older neighbors and relatives in isolation. Here are a few of their suggestions:
- Ask what help is needed. Does your neighbor need groceries, if so, what specifically?
- If you’re connecting on FaceTime or Zoom, let older adults have input on the frequency and time of calls. Make calls engaging by sharing thoughts on movies or recipes; grandmother could teach kids to knit, crochet, or paint; grandkids can entertain beloved older adults with singing or dancing.
- Help older adults schedule telehealth calls. Many people are avoiding the doctor’s office these days, but healthcare professionals are taking advantage of connecting on the phone, tablet, or computer. You can even videoconference with a doctor from the other side of the country. This way you can make sure your mother/father/grandparents understand what the physician is saying.
- Encourage movement. I took my exercise class for older adults to a Zoom call, because I knew if I’d said good-bye, their physical activity would have ceased. So meet your neighbors for a walk (social distancing, with face covering) or help them find exercise classes online. The National Institute on Aging offers workout routines on YouTube. Those enrolled in Medicare Advantage can also sign up for SilverSneakers, which sponsors exercise programs (like mine) and how-to videos.
And for other ways to connect with older loved ones to keep them active, give me a call.