We have been having lots of conversations about social isolation and how it affects people. My mom, Nikki, and aunt, Roxy, work here part-time at The Simple Home. They are both in the vulnerable population as far as health and age brackets, so I made the decision to have them work from home earlier than I did other members on our team.
But now they’re bored. And stir crazy. And my cousin, Rebeca, and I feel like the police overseeing parolees on house arrest. This is our teenage years coming back to bite us.
“No, you cannot go out! What do you need? I will go out and get it for you.”
“Oh, you’re bored? There are plenty of things to do around the house.”
“I’m not worried about you, I’m worried about everyone else.”
Even Jennifer Garner is joining the movement to get our parents and grandparents to stay at home:
We are all experiencing a taste of it. Our simple freedoms are gone. In a matter of days we’ve had to completely change how we live our lives and adapt to a new normal.
But you know what we have realized? This is what residents in assisted living and their families experience day in and day out. Think about the commonalities:
- You can’t leave and go do things whenever you want, like shopping or seeing a friend.
- You can only go to approved places at approved times (i.e., a group bus trip to Target, a weekly lunch outing). What we consider going to the essential places is the same as their outings.
- You are at the mercy of everything in your home, and must be entertained by the people and things in your environment or things you can access virtually from your environment.
This is why having a strong activities program in senior living is SO important. By nature, we need socialization, things to look forward to. As we all have seen, life can be really boring when it’s a long stretch of nothing to do and no hope of leaving the house. So how can we use these things to help our vulnerable family members be happy and healthy at home?
Schedule things! Just like an activity schedule, this helps people have things to look forward to. Try to plan something different for morning, afternoon, and evening. Here are some ideas:
- Encourage some sort of physical activity at least once a day, whether it be a walk outside or some light stretching.
- Invite them to set up video conferencing calls with family members and friends who live far away or they haven’t seen in a long time. Typically, the excuse for not connecting is being busy – which they’re not right now! Go through the ‘Christmas Card List’ with them and see who they’d like to connect with.
- Do things together virtually. Play an online game against each other. Set up your laptops in your kitchens and bake something at the same time, together while video conferencing.
- Watch a TV show in real time and text each other during it. One of my friends and I did that this year with the Oscars, it was so much fun!
- Brainstorm a list with them of things they can do around their house/what have you always wanted to get around to. Some examples:
- Clean out all the closets
- Purge holiday decorations
- Organize the junk drawer
- Encourage them to get ahead of things. Do they already have holiday or birthday presents for people? Wrap them ahead of time!
- Re-pot plants. If they don’t have necessary supplies you can have them delivered.
- Take up an old hobby. Did they used to paint? Knit? If so, they probably still have materials somewhere in the house to get going again. And if they fall back in love with it again, they can always order additional supplies for delivery or online.
- Take a course on something new! The online learning community is HUGE. Learn a new language, how to do origami. Whatever they want to explore, there is probably something out there for them!
- Organize old photos. Almost everyone has a box (or twenty) of photos that were never organized into a format that could be viewed more easily. And this is also a great opportunity to put aside doubles to give to people.
- Make a list of movies you’ve both been wanting to watch. Watch each one around the same time and discuss after.
This time has given us a chance to gain perspective on things we would have never otherwise thought about, like social isolation. Although we have to stay apart (for now), we can still help enrich the lives of those we love with meaningful connections and activities.