Staying connected with senior loved ones is important for maintaining family ties and for personal well-being. But how can you keep those connections thriving under challenging circumstances, such as living too far away to visit or when social distancing measures are put into place to protect health? Here are some practical ways to be together when you can’t be there in person.
The Tech Connection
Senior isolation can have devastating effects on an older adult’s immune system, as well as on their mental and physical health. If your loved one must be physically isolated, it can make those problems worse. Fortunately, technology can bridge the physical distance to bring emotional comfort.
One of the simplest ways to stay in touch with family long-distance is with your phone, tablet or computer.
- Phone calls just to chat are a simple way to stay connected. Try to set up a regular time to talk, so you both have something to look forward to.
- If your loved one hasn’t quite gotten the hang of texting, it might be a good time to let them practice. A quick daily text to check in, say hi, or share a picture lets you both know you’re on someone’s mind – and not alone.
- Video calls can make you feel a little closer together. Make sure your loved one’s device has a video app such as FaceTime, Skype, Google Duo, Facebook Messenger, Viber or WhatsApp. If you have an Echo Show, you can use Amazon Alexa to set up a video call as well.
Families and friends are getting creative about what they’re doing on video calls with loved ones in senior living communities:
- Story time with the grandkids. Take turns reading to each other from favorite books. If the kids are older, turn it into a family book club and discuss the latest reads.
- Virtual meals. Put the phone or other device on a stand and gather around a virtual table as you enjoy chatting over lunch or dinner.
- Watch parties. Streaming services such as Netflix let you set up viewing parties so you can watch your favorite shows together.
- Virtual services. If your loved one can’t get to a religious service or study, find out if their house of worship is streaming services. You can also help them set up a prayer meeting or devotional session with their friends via video. It’s a meaningful way to help them nurture their spiritual wellness.
- Cards and letters. Taking some extra time to pick out a special card or hand-write a letter is a thoughtful way to stay in touch with family long-distance. Ask the staff at your loved one’s senior living community if there are other residents who may be feeling isolated and find out if you and your family can send them some notes, too.
- Care packages. Gather things like favorite treats, puzzles, books, and simple comfort items and send them to your loved one. Try picking a theme and having all the care items fit the theme. It can be a fun way to let them know you’re thinking about them – and give you something to talk about the next time you call.
- Delivery services. Depending on what social distancing or other safety protocols are in place, you may be able to keep your loved one stocked up on necessities, cooking ingredients or even their favorite take-out meals. A few clicks and you have yet another way to let them know you care.
No matter how many miles or what circumstances keep you physically apart, there are plenty of ways to keep the love lines open wherever you are.
Visit our Facebook page to see how other families are staying connected.
Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.