How Older Adults Can Stay Socially Connected

Being isolated from family, friends and community can have its own negative impact on your health. With our new normal of social distancing to avoid exposure to Coronavirus and reduce the spread of COVID-19, isolation and loneliness are now a concern for even more older adults. We hope these suggestions can help you stay connected.

Plan to talk or chat regularly. Set up a schedule to connect with family members and friends so days don’t go by without contact. Many senior use email or online platforms like Zoom and Skye to keep in touch. If you don’t have Internet access or aren’t comfortable with those platforms, use the phone. Getting mail from a friend always feels good, so send a card or letter to someone you’d like to correspond with – and look forward to a reply.

Think beyond phones and laptops. All over the world, people are finding creative ways to connect. In Italy, urban dwellers open their windows to sing each evening. At a retirement community in Maine, residents open their apartment doors at 5 p.m. to greet hallmates from a safe distance and enjoy a quick catch-up. Who knows what you might come up with?

Get advice from other seniors. Many have sound advice and savvy tips to share. Jean Potuchek, a retired sociologist and college professor, blogs about her experience as a single senior. Find her insights here.

Move your book group, knitting club or bridge group online. Keep in touch virtually, with a Facebook group or a Google hangout.

Be prepared for downtime:

Read. Dust off a book you’ve been meaning to start. Join Audible or another digital audiobook provider. Some offer free audio downloads. LibriVox has titles that are no longer under copyright. Free Audiobooks is a free app for Apple users. Lit2Go has audiobooks formatted for MP3 players. (If you like to read, LibriVox is looking for volunteers to record more books. Learn more.)

Do yoga. It’s a great way to stay calm and strong. Try this gentle 28-minute sequence designed and led for seniors, or our own 58-minute session for older adults who are more comfortable practicing from a chair.

Learn. The Senior College at USM Lewiston-Auburn is offering free online courses for adults 50 and up. Topics range the artists of Mohegan to the world of baseball, and include single session and multi-week formats. Classes meet via Zoom – and you can join a free hour-long online workshop to learn how to use this platform Send an email or call 207-753-6610 for more information.

One final tip: Avoid the temptation to follow the news all day – it can be upsetting and add even more stress. Try tuning in once or twice a day instead.

Do you have an idea that might help another senior connect with others? Share it below. We’re all in this together!

COVID-19: Advice and Information for Older Adults

With constant news about the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s hard to know what information matters most. We’ve gathered the following guidance to help adults age 65 and older stay calm and safe.

Know your risk level. Older adults are more likely to become more seriously sick with the COVID-19 respiratory illness than younger adults, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Why is your risk higher? Our immune systems change as we age. This simply makes it harder for our bodies to cope the challenge of disease. Aging also makes the lungs more vulnerable to this particular illness. Finally, older adults may have other health conditions like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes that can make it harder to fend off and recover from COVID-19.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Practice good hygiene:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, and sneezing.
  • Use a hand sanitizer containing 60% or more alcohol if you can’t use soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you’ve washed your hands first.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with tissue and throw it in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you touch often – like doorknobs, phones, counter tops, sinks and toilets. Use soap or detergent first, then disinfectant.  
  • Stay home if you are sick.

Avoid others.

  • Stay 6 feet – about two arm lengths – or more away from anyone who is sick.
  • Stay at home as much as possible. Cancel any travel that is not essential.
  • If you must go out, avoid crowds. Limit close contact. Wash your hands often.

Plan ahead.

  • Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications, nonperishable food, and supplies in case you need to stay home for long periods and to limit trips out as much as possible.

Get a flu shot.

  • Seasonal flu is still a real concern. If you haven’t received a seasonal flu shot for the 2019-2020 season, call your health care provider and make arrangements. 

Beware of scams. Unfortunately, some are using this situation to tout false cures via email, and some are even claiming to be sending this information from the CDC. There are no cures or treatment for COVID-19 anywhere – do not trust or respond to these emails. Instead, trust information from reliable sources, including:

  • The Maine Centers for Disease Control: website; phone: 800-821-5821.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): website.

If you are sick

If you are sick or if you’re worried about COVID-19 and an underlying condition you have: Call your health care provider for advice.   

There’s no doubt these are difficult, uncertain times, and we want to do all we can to help you through it. Keep an eye out for more information the upcoming days and weeks, and we wish you good health.