The social distancing practices and communal stay-at-home orders put in place during the coronavirus pandemic were necessary but left many feeling cooped up or lonely. For millions of seniors around the world, this presented a unique problem. While loneliness isn’t healthy for anyone, seniors face specific dangers from social isolation. With some big question marks about when social distancing practices can safely end, what are some ways that seniors can avoid loneliness and stay connected with their friends and family while staying safe?

Video Chat with Family

Getting together with the family is something many of us cherish, especially during holidays. When you can’t get together in person, modern technology has made it possible to gather over the internet. With a strong enough internet connection, relatives hundreds of miles away can be in your living room. Some video conferencing applications (apps) allow you to share your device’s screen to look at digitized family photos or home videos, keeping memories alive. Other apps allow you to play games together, reviving family game night even if you’re in separate states. Even if you’re simply talking with your loved ones, video chatting feels more in-person than a phone call.

Each system has its own benefits, so do a little digging to see which works best for you and your family.3

When it comes to hunting down a video conferencing application or services, you’re truly spoiled for choice. Many phones come with built-in video chatting capabilities (think FaceTiming on iPhones). Skype is the granddaddy of video chatting, the behemoth that’s been around for years, but recently, other challengers have emerged. Other big companies have thrown their weight into video chatting, like Google’s Duo and Hangouts, WhatsApp, and Microsoft Teams. Zoom has been getting a lot of press lately, growing as a popular option of group video conferencing. Houseparty is similar to Zoom but adds the ability to play games as a group. Each system has its own benefits, so do a little digging to see which works best for you and your family.

Virtual Activities Together

Unfortunately, we can’t sit around chatting on video calls all day, but there are ways you can do things together, even during quarantine. With a little creativity, you can turn any activity into a group activity. For example, right now is a great time to pick up a hobby. Whether that’s knitting, woodworking, writing, or any other sort of hobby, being stuck at home gives you ample time to develop those skills. It’s also a chance to learn a hobby with someone you love. You and a partner can pick a hobby that you want to learn. Pick an online class or shared resource so you’re both on the same page. Then, each week, discuss your progress, either through a phone call, video chatting, or e-mail. Share your success, talk about where you struggled, and show off what you’ve made. Not only will you get a new skill and hobby out of it, you’ll also grow closer to the person you’re sharing the experience with.

With a little creativity, you can turn any activity into a group activity.

Here’s an example you can follow. Say you want to become a better home cook. Recruit a family member who shares this goal and find an online cooking class (we’re currently blazing through MasterClass’s collection of culinary courses). Decide on how often you’ll take the classes and how often you’ll check in. Each week, pick a meal you’ll cook together. While you’re cooking, use one of the video chatting apps discussed above to talk about what you’re doing and why. Use this time to share thoughts and changes to each dish. When you’re all done, sit down to a lovely meal that you’ll share with your loved one!

Another example of a shared activity is a virtual book club. Get a group of friends together and assign a book that each of you wants to read. Select a number of chapters or pages you’ll need to read to each week. At the end of the week, talk about what you read, any themes that have arisen, or share your thoughts on the plot developments. What’s great about this is that you can do this through a video chat, group phone call, or even over e-mail or a group messaging app.

Communicating Via the Mail or Online

Speaking of e-mail, you can use the quarantine to revive the old art of letter writing. While phone calls and video chats may be quicker in the modern age, there’s something special about receiving a handwritten letter or a well-crafted e-mail that shouldn’t be ignored. Unlike phone calls, letters and e-mail utilizes writing, which can actually have health benefits for you — acting like journaling to improve your mental health. If you have a similarly-minded friend or family member, set up a pen pal system. Get a pack of travel postcards from around the world and write to a grandchild like you were there.

If you’ve ever wanted to get into writing, this is the perfect excuse!

Whatever way you find most effective, writing to a friend or family member keeps you connected to them during these times of separation while turning the excellent hobby of writing into an interactive and lively process. If you’ve ever wanted to get into writing, this is the perfect excuse to stay close to loved ones and work on your writing craft at the same time.

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It’s easy to feel lonely when you can’t really leave the house, whether that’s because of the current pandemic or for more personal reasons. The beauty of living in a society, though, is that you don’t ever have to be alone if you don’t want to. You can always find a way to connect with someone, whether that’s a family member you’ve known for your whole life or a friend you’re meeting for the first time. Even if we’re confined to our homes, there are ways you can avoid social isolation. If you’re feeling lonely, you can try out any of these suggestions or reach out to us on our Facebook or Twitter. There, you’ll find thousands of likeminded seniors who would be happy to connect and chat!

Further Reading

Medicareful Living — Why Seniors Should Avoid Isolation