9 ways to stay connected to seniors and immunocompromised friends during COVID-19 social distancing
UpdatedMarch 26, 2020

Human connection is critical to all our mental health during this time. Here are a few creative ways to remind your friends and family you care.

By Catherine Cooke Staying connected

Many of us are at least a week into doing our part to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19, or coronavirus, through social distancing. A quick daily walk (with 6 feet of separation, of course!) may be helping you keep connected to what’s beyond the walls of your home. But many do not have this luxury. Even a socially-distant walk could put a large group of people in our rare disease community unnecessarily at risk: seniors and immunocompromised individuals.

For this group, staying home is a necessity and having visitors in their homes is a no-go. With today’s technology, there’s certainly enough content to stream on your TV for years, but this is not a replacement for something we all need: human connection.

For those who are able, we have some ideas for how you can help seniors and immunocompromised individuals feel remembered and cared for during this time of isolation.

Ways to connect if you live nearby

  1. Have a coffee date through a window. Bring your own coffee and chair, and take a seat on their porch or any ground-level window. Have them make their own coffee and pull up a chair to the window from inside. Chat like you normally do (just a little louder than usual) and share a laugh together at your new form of coffee dates!

  2. Mow their lawn. Grass doesn’t stop growing during pandemics! Watching your grass grow tall reminds us of time passed without attention. A simple act such as this keeps them feeling cared for.

  3. Decorate their windows. If you have children, hang up their artwork on the outside of their windows. Some hearts or notes will remind them daily of your love.

Ways to connect from afar

If you don’t live close to your loved ones, there are still ways you can interact:

  1. Send them an audiobook or e-book. If they have an e-reader, you can buy them a digital book that will be sent to them via email and instantly put on their device once they accept the gift. You can even include a note!

  2. Buy them a digital photo frame. Frames like Skylight are digital photo frames that you can ship to someone’s home. Anyone can email photos to a unique email address, and they will instantly pop up on your loved one’s frame! Send them photos of wonderful memories or the latest photos of what’s going on at your home.

  3. Start an anthology. Who doesn’t love sharing family stories and traditions? Start a weekly series where you ask your loved ones questions via phone call or email. Whether family history stories or beloved recipes, you can put these answers together in a book to share with them and others.

  4. Buy them groceries. Apps such as Shipt allow you to buy groceries and have them delivered same-day without you having to do anything in person. They are taking extra precautions to keep everyone safe and will drop the groceries off at your loved ones’ door without ever coming into contact with them. Be sure to include something fun in the order they may not buy for themselves such as balloons or flowers!

  5. Watch a movie together. Set up a Netflix Party. This browser plug-in allows you to choose a movie to watch with friends. It then gives you a link you can share with your loved ones that they can click to join the watch party. You will all watch together in sync, and there’s a chat box to gab away!

  6. Have a game night. Websites like Arkadium have a host of their favorite games that they can play online alone or with you and others. With games such as mahjongg to sudoku to jigsaw puzzles, you can organize a weekly game night.

A favorite quote we have seen resurfacing lately is from Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

During this time where social distance means isolation for so many, let us not just look for the helpers but be the helpers. Your elderly and immunocompromised friends and family need you now more than ever. Ironically, if we each step up to be there for one another, social distance can bring us together more than ever before. Share what you’re doing to connect by messaging RDMD on Twitter or Facebook!

Originally posted at March 26, 2020

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