Social engagement is essential for helping seniors maintain optimal health and quality of life. However, with the outbreak of Coronavirus, older Australians are being instructed to practice the exact opposite — self isolation.
With seniors being the highest risk group for COVID-19, staying indoors and limiting contact with others is essential. However, this change in way of life can be quite isolating and disorienting.
The good news is, there are a few simple ways seniors can stay connected to their friends, family and community during the pandemic. Not only can this help combat feelings of loneliness, it ensures they are kept in the loop with the right information about the virus.
Read on for 6 tips for seniors to stay connected during the Coronavirus.
1. Schedule virtual chats
For many older Australians, drop-ins from friends and family are the highlight of the week.
While in-person gatherings aren’t currently an option, the good news is it’s still possible to chat face-to-face.
There are many great video conferencing apps that can facilitate virtual catchups.
For people using a computer, Skype and Zoom are great options — and they allow multiple users, so the whole family can get involved.
For those on a mobile or tablet, FaceTime, WhatsApp or Houseparty are simple apps that will connect you with the click of a button.
If you are trying to keep your parent or grandparent connected, why not schedule recurring video calls? It will give them something to look forward to each week.
2. Get confident with tech
If the thought of downloading new apps feels a bit overwhelming – or, you’re trying to set a parent or grandparent up remotely — there are a range of great Australian programs that can help.
For example, Telstra’s free Tech Savvy Seniors program uses short and easy-to-follow videos to get users set up on mobile devices, emails and other computer programs.
There’s also the federal government’s Be Connected Program the GoDigi Program, which is a partnership from Australia Post and Infoxchange and the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association.
These initiatives will help get you or your loved one set up and confidently using tech devices.
3. Join online communities
Whether you’re an avid reader, a keen knitter or are mad about gardening, there are online communities for nearly every type of hobby.
Joining these can not only help keep seniors busy at home, but it allows them to connect with other likeminded people.
Senior Chatters is a great website that hosts discussions across an array of different topics, from group chatrooms to one-on-one chats.
The charity Active Ageing is another Australian resource that keeps seniors engaged in a range of virtual activities they can do from home — from physical activities to verbal crosswords to sudoku. They also recently launched a Friendly Phone Calls program, for those who prefer to chat on the phone.
4. Organise virtual outings
While it may not be possible to physically get out and about, seniors can still enjoy their favourite pastimes from the comfort of their armchairs.
Rather than cancelling their concerts, many musical performers are putting on virtual concerts that can be streamed from a computer or smartphone. For example, Classicfm has a great directory of classical concerts and symphonies that will be livestreamed online.
Even church can be attended virtually, with many churches taking their Sunday services online.
Not only can volunteering help keep seniors busy, it’s an excellent way to stay connected to the wider community.
Plus, sometimes during difficult times, the most fulfilling you can do is help others. Luckily, seniors can easily volunteer from home without physically coming into contact with others.
Many organisations — such as not-for-profits, political parties and faith-based groups — rely on volunteers to make phone calls.
Check out the websites Volunteering Australia or GoVolunteer to see if there’s an opportunity that could be a good fit.
6. Monitor news consumption
With the situation around Coronavirus rapidly changing, it’s important that seniors remain up-to-date with the latest news and health guidelines.
However, the constant stream of media coverage — which isn’t always 100% accurate — can just exaggerate an already stressful situation.
Try to avoid getting your Coronavirus news from Facebook, or keeping your TV on all day — or, encourage your older loved one not to do so. Instead, simply watching a 30-minute news coverage each night should be enough to stay sufficiently updated.
By following these tips, seniors can remain safe, engaged and connected during the Coronavirus crisis.