Many seniors and their loved ones are taking special precautions to stay healthy, including limiting or eliminating visits and other activities that can cause COVID-19 to spread. That’s because the older you are, the higher your risk of severe illness from the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While these important steps help keep seniors physically healthy, they can have a negative impact on mental well-being. Many elderly people already felt isolation before COVID-19 limitations. Now that many activities and interactions they previously enjoyed are no longer an option, this can be particularly disheartening, especially during the holiday season.
In fact, 76% of people 65 and older are anxious to spend time in-person with their loved ones, according to a COVID-19 impact study by Comfort Keepers, providers of senior in-home and respite care. What’s more, 57% are eagerly awaiting the chance to embrace a loved one as soon as they can.
“Seniors are struggling with the emotional impact of isolation now more than ever due to COVID-19,” says Carl McManus, CEO, Comfort Keepers North America. “Fortunately, with a bit of creativity and outside-the-box thinking, friends and family can still bring joy to older loved ones to elevate the human spirit even from afar.”
McManus and the experts at Comfort Keepers share their top tips to bring joy to seniors in a safe manner:
Send joy in the mail: Many seniors still hold close the art of the handwritten letter, so try sitting down and writing out your thoughts to share with a loved one. An alternative would be a greeting card with a salutation and positive thoughts for the future. While sending mail for special occasions is always a welcome idea, consider sending letters periodically just to brighten the day.
Spread holiday cheer: There are many ways to virtually celebrate the holiday season. You can decorate a tree in a senior’s yard, leave a gift basket or greeting card on their doorstep, or have a drive-through holiday parade right in front of their home. Other traditional holiday activities that you can still do include caroling, gift giving and cookie exchanges. Take the time to plan the big celebration days, but don’t forget about bringing daily doses of joy throughout the season.
Share meaningful memories: Show seniors you’re thinking about them by sending imagery of your times together over the past few years. This could be a photo either via text, email or mail. You can also have children paint or draw their favorite memories with senior loved ones. A picture is worth a thousand words and by sharing imagery of meaningful experiences you’re showing that you cherish time together also. And sharing photos can help older adults feel connected and loved.
Make movie magic: Plan a time to virtually connect and watch a joyful movie together. It might be a classic, an option that’s been on your must-see list for a while, or a new release. A video meeting app can work best for this activity as it allows for easy interaction as you watch your flick, plus you can see each other’s reactions throughout the movie. For seniors who are less comfortable with technology, consider sending them your favorite film and theater treats to enjoy, and share your thoughts together later over the phone.
Name that tune: Music is a special part of the human experience and our favorite songs can bring a smile any time of the year. Take time to make a playlist of your loved one’s favorite music and send it as a gift in whatever manner is most easily accessible, digital or on CD. You can also plan a list of different songs and play them on random and guess to see who gets the most song titles right the fastest. Video and phone calls are also a great time for a sing-along or impromptu serenade!
Get grandkids in on the fun: For grandparents, grandkids are their pride and joy. Invite your kids of all ages to participate in activities, including singing contests, book reading, board games, crafts and more. Even a simple conversation sharing their interests, what’s happening at school and any craft projects is a pure joy. Also consider asking grandma and grandpa to have a Zoom class to teach kids a treasured craft, activity or recipe. And many seniors love to connect with children in their community, so consider having kids write cards or draw pictures for seniors that may be feeling lonely or isolated.
Become baking buddies: If you both have the ability, it can be a fun experience to bake together simultaneously. You might try a new recipe or one that is a family tradition. Get all the ingredients ready and then set a time to meet online virtually to start chopping, mixing and blending until you bake and compare results. Kids love participating in kitchen adventures as well. You can also make your favorite treats and gift them to seniors in your local area.
“Having a connection is so important to so many seniors, which is why a simple act of kindness can mean the world even if that looks a little different this year,” says McManus.