Stay connected with loved ones during the pandemic
As temperatures plummet, seniors may soon be facing an extended period of social isolation. Winter often brings isolation anyway, but the pandemic has made it worse. Seniors in long-term care facilities have had limited in-person visiting hours and were already living in social isolation.
According to the Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council’s 2019 survey of adults 55 years old and older, 21 per cent of respondents scored as “lonely”. Almost one quarter of respondents seldom or don’t have someone to talk to or rely on for help. Their social networks have gotten smaller because of retirement, children and grandchildren moving away, friends dying, and so on. Plus, many of the one-person households are seniors living on their own following the death of a spouse. This is particularly true for older women.
Loneliness has a devastating impact on health for people of all ages. Socially isolated seniors already dealing with mental and physical challenges are more exposed to risks such as cognitive decline, dementia, depression, anxiety, falls, and hospitalization.
But not all hope is lost! Although working remotely, staff of seniors’ centres strive to respond to essential needs by regularly monitoring emails and voicemails. Many organizations have turned to digital technology to keep its older patrons engaged.
For example, the Sage Seniors Association hosts several different activities through Seniors’ Centre Without Walls, which offers free, interactive telephone-based information sessions, educational programs, games, and conversation. Seniors can still also connect with Sage’s online Life Enrichment Programming. Some seniors’ centres also have in-person classes for a limited number of attendees using safety protocols. In addition, many program options are available via computer or telephone. A complete list can be found in the recreation directory compiled by The Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council.
Technology plays an important role in not only staying connected but also in reaching out for essentials. However, since some seniors are not confident about using digital technology, that’s where volunteers, friends, and seniors’ centres play an important role in helping seniors understand and use technology. As an alternative to FaceTime and video calls, applications such as WhatsApp offer free calling, voice and video messaging. Many retail giants offer online shopping options. Prescription refills can also be done online. For example, through the Instacart app, customers can order groceries from participating retailers with the shopping being done by a personal shopper.
Loved ones can still visit seniors living in senior housing or long-term care facilities in the winter, provided they follow AHS public health guidelines, such as wearing a mask, maintaining a safe distance, sanitizing, and staying home if feeling unwell.
Because not everyone has access to the Internet, it is essential that we regularly stay connected with our senior family members, friends, and neighbours to know if they need any essentials. Even just calling to ask about their well-being can go a long way, especially with the onset of winter and influenza season.
Socially isolated seniors may not feel valued or have a strong sense of belonging or fulfillment. A lack of social contact can cause mental health challenges. By regularly reaching out to seniors, we can ensure they do not feel neglected or unsupported at the most vulnerable stage of their lives.
Sage Seniors Association
The Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council
Online grocery shopping
Featured Image: Reach out regularly to seniors so that they don’t feel neglected. | Nazreena Anwar-Travas