Humans are social creatures. We thrive as babies when we are held regularly, and our health fails when left untouched for long stretches of time.
The same is true as we age. Social interaction is such a large part of what keeps us healthy and well-balanced both mentally and physically throughout our lives.
As the new year moves along, we all face the social limitations that COVID-19 has created in our lives.
You may wonder how to help maintain those healthy and much-needed social connections for our aging loved ones while staying safely inside the required COVID-19 guidelines.
The Mission at Agua Fria has some helpful suggestions to help you maintain those important social connections with your seniors while keeping them healthy from COVID-19.
- Visit from a Distance Using Online Conferencing
Even though we’re all limited in our ability to interact in-person due to the risk of spreading the virus, we are fortunate to live in the age of the internet. By using electronic tools to connect with our loved ones safely, whether or not we are ill, we can maintain those so-very-important social connections with our family members during this difficult time.
We aren’t limited to only family connections, but seniors can take online classes, join chat sessions with friends and family, listen to podcasts, and more. With the use of tablets, smartphones, and computers, it’s now easier than ever to connect with each other at a safe distance. Seniors can enjoy the benefits of free online conferencing apps, such as Zoom or Skype, to meet up regularly with friends and family for a chat or to enjoy a holiday or birthday celebration with loved ones from the safety of their own homes or apartments.
Many colleges offer online classes, which can often be attended free of charge. The opportunities are endless with the internet right at our fingertips. Sometimes seniors can find using computers can be a bit overwhelming, so suggest using tablets or smartphones in place of computers.
- Minimize the Size of Gatherings
For gatherings in-person, be careful to minimize the number of people who attend. By keeping the numbers of visitors small, you can limit the risk that someone who visits is carrying the virus and limit exposure to others. In-person gatherings can be enjoyed with small groups of people, but afterward, make sure to self-quarantine for 14 days to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus in case any of the visitors were infected.
Especially since some can carry the virus with no symptoms, it’s very important to isolate each member after such gatherings with family and friends who aren’t in the same household to minimize spreading the virus. It may be easy to overlook the risk we take when spending time with those we love who don’t reside in our own homes. We may have college students who live in dorms during the school year visiting at home for holidays, weekends, and breaks, which brings a greater risk of infection.
Stay mindful of the possible risk and make sure everyone is wearing masks when it’s not eating time. Everyone should also wash their hands often and thoroughly throughout the visit. The CDC website offers suggestions on how to best protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming sick during this pandemic.
- Socialize Outdoors
Ventilation is key when celebrating with small gatherings of friends and family. For those in warmer climates, celebrating outdoors at a park or in the yard is much better than celebrating indoors, as the fresh air is much healthier than stale inside air that could carry the virus if someone attending isn’t well.
For those cooler evenings, you can use outdoor space heaters and tents to help keep warm, while still being able to gather more safely outdoors. For those needing to gather indoors, you can increase ventilation by opening windows and doors as you’re able, which will help increase fresh air circulating through the home.
The same principle applies to non-celebratory activities as well. Seniors who would like to attend activities around their community may want to be mindful of where these activities are being held. Outdoor activities and dining are much safer to enjoy during the pandemic than those indoors with limited ventilation.
- Keep Old Traditions Going
Think back to when you were young and remember the activities you and your family took part in together to enjoy time together. Maybe you all watched a favorite film or sang certain songs around the fireplace on a cold winter night. Perhaps your family played some board games or took silly photos together each year. Whatever the tradition was, it could be fun to revive old memories and bring back how you used to enjoy time with your family.
One activity that could be both fun and safe is taking a drive as a family to some of the places you used to visit together outdoors, such as a picnic spot or that favorite fishing spot you and your parents used to visit each season. As long as you stay outside and in a well-ventilated area, everyone will remain safer. Don’t forget the importance of including your senior loved ones in the conversation when strolling down memory lane to come up with fun family traditions to enjoy together.
- Make Their Favorite Meals or Desserts
Foods and smells of favorite dishes can be a strong memory trigger for those who battle with memory loss. Making your loved one’s favorite dishes can be so rewarding, as it helps them remember the past, and it’s a way to honor those family memories of meals shared with the people we love.
Spending time with our seniors, even with the limitations of the pandemic, is important to maintaining a sense of being a part of a family and not feeling forgotten during such difficult times. The Mission at Agua Fria is here to help protect your loved ones and keep our communities safe and healthy.