From social distancing requirements to stay-at-home orders and extended periods of quarantine, this past year has dealt us all some unexpected lifestyle changes. Since the global COVID-19 pandemic is still in full swing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging people over the age of 60 to stay at home, as the risk of developing COVID has been shown to increase with age. While avoiding public places and staying home is necessary to prevent the spread of COVID and preserve your health, being separated from friends, family, and loved ones can leave you feeling disconnected—and you’re certainly not alone in feeling this way.
A recent survey found that 78% of people reported that quarantine has made them value their relationships even more, while 24% admitted to struggling with feelings of loneliness or isolation1. Even in quarantine, there are plenty of ways to keep connected with your friends and family – it may just take a bit more creativity. Until we are able to safely gather in person again, here are some ideas to keep connected.
- Virtually Visit with Friends & Family
Just because you’re staying home doesn’t mean that you can’t see your loved ones. Many online communication tools now come with video chatting capabilities—and all you need is a computer, phone, or tablet. From free communication platforms like Zoom and Skype, to smartphone applications like FaceTime and Facebook Messenger, video chatting is not only the most obvious, but perhaps the easiest way to keep connected with friends and family from the comfort of your own home. Reach out to your loved ones to schedule times for virtual visits. Even if you’re not the most tech-savvy person, they’ll likely be more than willing to help you get started. Your calendar will start to fill up and you’ll have these conversations to look forward to. Plus, becoming familiar with video chatting now could pay off even after social distancing requirements have been lifted—it’s a great way to keep in touch with family and friends that don’t live close by.
- Play Online Games
More time at home means more time for games, and there are far more options than just the standard Solitaire that comes on your computer. From card games to board games and even strategy games, today’s technology makes it easier than ever to play your favorite games online. With several websites that specialize in online games, there are thousands to choose from that you can play against others or on your own. You can also download apps to your devices to play with others. Some of the most popular games amongst the older generation include Words with Friends, Scrabble, Animal Crossing, and Family Feud. While you may have never considered yourself to be a gamer, playing online games are a great way to stay connected and pass the time as you quarantine at home. You can even invite your family members and grandchildren to join!
- Participate in Online Book Clubs
For avid readers, there is nothing better than getting lost in a good book. Regardless of what it is you like to read, there are likely others that enjoy the same literature as well. Stemming from the concept of video chatting, online book clubs are a great way to connect with other readers all over the world to discuss the books you love. Gaining in popularity, there are countless book clubs you can join online—or you can start your own with family and friends. Ask around to see who is interested in reading the same book and then schedule times to hop on a virtual meeting to discuss it. Not only will this provide an incentive to keep reading, it’s also a great way to keep your mind occupied even while confined to your home.
- Write Letters
Even in today’s technology-driven age, snail mail has not lost its touch. Data shows that 94% of people love to receive physical letters in the mail from someone they know2. It may be old-fashioned, but there is nothing that can replace the tangibility of a handwritten letter. And in this period of isolation, letter writing has taken on fresh resonance. Sending handwritten letters and cards to loved ones during these challenging times can go a long way in keeping communication lines open. You can even add a printed photo for a personal touch or to reminisce on fun memories. In fact, a recent Postal Service survey found that one in six consumers had sent more mail to family and friends during the pandemic than before3. This is an especially great option for those with limited or no access to smartphones or computers.
- Arrange Window Interactions
You’ve heard of window shopping—and now, there are window visits. It’s no secret that an in-person wave or simple “hello” can go a long way in these challenging times, and a window visit allows you to do exactly that! For family and friends that live nearby, consider stopping by their home. You can pull up a chair to the window, while they stay inside and talk on the phone. By visiting each other from opposite sides of a closed window, you get the benefit of seeing your loved ones while maintaining a safe distance—a caring and thoughtful gesture.
- Share a Virtual Meal
While the pandemic may have limited your ability to dine out with your family and friends, you can still enjoy a meal with them virtually. Thanks to delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub, it’s easier than ever to have food delivered to you and your loved ones, regardless of location. Consider ordering a meal for yourself in addition to one for your loved ones to be delivered at the same time. Upon arrival, you can jump on a video call and dine virtually together—all from the comfort and convenience of your own home.Virtual meals can be shared at any time or for any occasion. Have a standing Sunday coffee date with your friends? Brew some coffee at home and grab your phone or laptop to give them a call. Have an upcoming birthday in the family? Dial in to sing “Happy Birthday” and enjoy whatever dessert you have in the house. In times like these, innovation goes a long way!
- Revisit Your Hobbies
If there’s ever been an interest you’ve had or a hobby you wish you could spend more time on, now is your chance. Even while quarantining at home, you can engage in these hobbies and interests. And with the expansiveness of the internet, there is an online class or group formed for just about anything you can imagine. Like to spend time in the kitchen? Join a recipe group online or subscribe to a cooking or baking channel on YouTube for new recipe inspiration. History buff? Take a virtual tour of a museum that interests you. Music lover? Keep your eyes peeled for virtual concerts put on by various orchestras, bands, singing groups, and even headline performers. Crafty? Head to Pinterest for some inspiration to try out a new skill like painting, knitting, jewelry making, or drawing. Hands-on artistic projects, doodling, and even coloring books are also great ways to combat stress and anxiety. Whether new or newly re-discovered, projects and hobbies are a great way to not only keep busy, but also to maintain sharp brain health and drive social connections around the things you love. Whatever you like to do, do more of it!
- Make Phone Calls Regularly
When’s the last time you picked up the phone and had a long conversation with someone, just because? In today’s age of texting and instant messaging, it may not have been as recently as you think. But with more people staying at home and limiting public interaction, now is a perfect time to connect. It’s as simple as picking up the phone and giving a friend or family member a call. They’ll appreciate the conversation and it’s a great way to express that even though you’re socially distant, you are still there for them.
- Document Family History
In times like these, who couldn’t benefit from a trip down Memory Lane? If you haven’t already done so, consider using this time at home to start recording your family’s story and rich history. You can enlist your family members for help starting a journal and gathering official records like birth certificates, marriage certificates, or even family pictures. Organizing and labeling these now is a great way to pass on your family’s heritage to younger and future generations. Plus, the memories you have are invaluable to your family and cannot be replicated.
- Be a Good Neighbor
Throughout this pandemic, you’ve likely seen the many stories of people doing good, helping others, and spreading hope. And we all have the power to do the same – starting right in our own neighborhoods. While your neighborhood may seem eerily quiet or resemble that of a ghost town, knowing you have neighbors nearby can reduce the feeling of isolation. Start connecting with neighbors through small acts of kindness. It can be as small as a wave when you’re going to get the mail or a socially distant conversation from your porch or deck. You can offer to bring them lunch or dinner, or even pick up some grocery items on your next trip to the store. These acts of kindness—big or small—go a long way in making the best of a difficult situation.
It’s no secret that humans are social beings. Fortunately, social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. With a little out-of-the-box thinking, you can stay connected with your family, friends, and loved ones. Your social experiences may look a bit different than in previous years, but they will become treasured memories nonetheless.
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- Source: 2010 NRMLA study.