Dealing with the Social Isolation of Older Adults During COVID-19

hands of an elderly woman resting on her lap

By Alison Wood, Contributing Writer

 

COVID-19 has meant that many people, particularly older adults, have spent a great deal of time alone. Visits with family and friends have been limited and even usually mundane activities, like a visit to the store, have either stopped completely or been a much less social experience. When we are limited in our contact with others, it can lead to feelings of anxiety and even depression. 

Additionally, there’s been a general sense of unease about the progress of the pandemic, alongside worries about the health of family and friends. 

If you are struggling with a sense of isolation during these difficult times, or if you know someone who is, here are some steps to help you feel connected again.

Reach out to others

None of us want to feel alone, so it’s important to have people to whom you can reach out. The first step with this is to check in with others. Naturally, we aren’t able to do this face to face, but never underestimate the power of a phone call. Ask them how they are and don’t be afraid to let them know how you are feeling too. Just hearing someone else’s voice can help to make you feel part of a community.

If you feel your anxiety or depression goes deeper, it’s essential to seek help from a medical practitioner and let them know how you are feeling. There is help available it’s just taking that first step to seek it out.

Make use of technology

Make use of any technology that can bring you closer to others without actually being in the same room with them. That could be through Zoom video conferencing, FaceTime calls, or just connecting with loved ones through social media.

We explore several web-based options that can help you connect with others in our article, “Websites that Help Seniors Beat the COVID-19 Blues.” Click HERE to read more!

If you don’t have a lot of experience with technology, see if a caregiver or family member can help get you started.

Take a break from the news

Yes, there is a great deal of turmoil happening in the world. But while you might want to keep up to date, it’s not a good idea to watch an endless cycle of news on the TV. This can add to feelings of anxiety and make you feel helpless about the future. The point of the news is to focus on serious topics, but watching too much can start to make you feel there isn’t any good left in the world. This is far from the truth, and it’s important that equal focus is given to the positive aspects of life.

Mind your mindset

This last point brings up the importance of mindset. While the pandemic is a very tough time, it’s vital to remember that it will end. History shows us that nothing lasts forever, whether it’s good or bad. While COVID-19 is very serious, at some point, hopefully in the near future, we will find a solution.

To help with your mindset, try one or more of these actions: gratitude journaling, mindfulness, meditation, or yoga. There are both online classes and free videos on YouTube available on all of these topics, so take the time to explore your options and see what connects well with you.

Keep busy

When you are dealing with social isolation, it can often feel like you have too much time on your hands. To help with this on a practical level, prepare activities that you can always turn to if you feel low. Reading, crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, crafts, and TV or movies can all help fill the time. Maybe you could use this as an opportunity to take up a hobby or learn a new skill. If you have access to the internet, seek out an online class or two — there are now more available than ever.

Get outdoors

If you have a yard or can access a local park, then it’s a good idea to spend some time outdoors. Even just a short walk every day can help lift your spirits. If you enjoy gardening, then this is another activity that can fill time and help you feel more connected to nature.

Look after yourself

When we are spending more time alone, it’s sometimes easy to neglect one’s self. Maybe you think it’s not worth the time to prepare a nutritious meal. You might drink too much alcohol, eat too much sugar, or simply don’t get enough sleep.

Remind yourself, often, that your self-care is important to your well-being, and take appropriate actions. Try to stick to a regular routine of getting up and going to bed at set times. Plus, make sure you eat regularly throughout the day and stay hydrated. Eat and drink what is good for you. It’s important to look after your health, as this can have a big impact on how positive you feel.

Dealing with social isolation is not easy for anyone, particularly when we don’t have a clear idea of when the COVID-19 situation will improve. However, it’s worth trying at least some of these ideas, as they can make a difference — and every step counts to move us through this difficult period and out the other side.