How to combat social isolation in seniors

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As the “Safer at Home” order is extended until May 15, many seniors are beginning to feel the effects of self-isolation, especially loneliness. 

In fact, research suggests loneliness and prolonged isolation can have negative effects on your health, more even than smoking 15 cigarettes per day. 

That being said, now more than ever is the time to focus on ways to stay connected and social.

The good news is that technology is a wonderful asset and can help keep that loneliness at bay. 

Video chat

These days, there is an endless supply of video chatting applications, such as FaceTime, Skype, Whatsapp or Zoom, which allow family and friends to stay connected.

The best part is you don’t really have to be that tech-savvy to use them. Though it may seem intimidating, most are easy to use for the most part.

If setting up an account seems like a daunting task, ask a family member, friend or neighbor for a quick tutorial.

Then, you can get to work scheduling calls with your loved ones. You can even get creative and schedule more than just a chat, instead going for a virtual mealtime, game night or even storytime with the grandkids.

Take to social media

Though this too may seem a bit daunting, there are a number of social media applications out there, such as Facebook or Twitter, that can help you stay up to date on your loved ones.

Get some help setting them up, if you need it, then start adding your friends and family, so you can see what they’ve been up to during the past few weeks.

Tune in to some videos

Now that you’ve mastered the use of social media, be on the lookout for videos you can tune into to help you not only stay connected, but also stay active, such as Valencia resident Jeff Bomberger’s five-minute meditation videos.

Bomberger is taking to Facebook to share the benefits of meditation, which can be a great stress- reliever, even if only done for a few minutes at a time.

The National Institute on Aging has also created an exercise campaign called Go4Life that includes online video workouts.

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Phone a friend

If all else fails with the technology side of things, a simple phone call will certainly do.

Call a family member, old friend or a neighbor and check in on them. Many are stressed and anxious during this pandemic, and most can use someone to talk to about it, so be sure to lend an ear if they need it, as it certainly works both ways.

If you don’t have anyone to call, that’s all right. The Institute on Aging has a Friendship Line that is both a crisis intervention hotline and a warmline for non-emergency, emotional support calls for anyone age 60 and older, which is available toll-free and 24 hours a day at 800-971-0016.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also recently launched a COVID-19 Information Hotline in order to not only help combat social isolation, but also provide a one-stop-shop to answer questions and get assistance during this crisis. The hotline can be reached at 833-544-2374.

Write some letters

Sometimes combating loneliness is as easy as picking up a pen and paper. Break out the colored pens and paper and get to writing.

Many of your nieces and nephews or grandchildren would love to get a letter in the mail from you, but be sure to challenge them to write back.

If not, write to your friends or neighbors and find yourself a pen pal.

Stay involved in your community

Though the goal is to stay isolated from the community, that doesn’t mean you can’t still be a part of it remotely.

Many organizations, such as local churches and nonprofits, rely on volunteers to make phone calls.

Reach out to some of the organizations you used to volunteer at and inquire if they need any help — most are sure to be glad you called.

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