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The elderly is amongst the highest population facing the risk of loneliness in today’s society. With the introduction of social distancing and lockdown measures to combat COVID-19, this risk has continued to increase. Luckily, thanks to innovative ideas, and the Internet, there are ways we can still keep in touch with our elderly family members and friends.

Nowadays there are several apps and software designed for communication purposes. All you need is a mobile, laptop or tablet, and an Internet connection. Don’t let your lack of technological knowledge hold you back. There are several tutorials online that describe in easy step-by-step instructions how to download, install and use various apps. The following is a link to one related to downloading Skype:  https://support.skype.com/en/faq/FA11098/how-do-i-get-started-with-skype. Remember, you can also make use of apps such as Whatsapp of Facebook Messenger that allow you to not only have video conversations with your loved ones, but also share lots of different content as well.

Here are some ideas of activities that you could do together virtually:

Virtual cooking and dinner session – set up a date and time when you would like to have a video call. Decide what you would like to cook and cook the same meal, even if you’re bound to different houses. Encourage the sharing of tips and techniques. When you’re done, set the table and enjoy your meal!

Send photos and video messages – these, unlike a phone conversation, can be seen over and over again at any time of day. They could be related to memories you share together, or a way of keeping each other updated on your day.

Play a game of chess – websites such as chess.com allow you to play chess with anyone who has the same app. All you need to know is each other’s username and you start a virtual game.

Send a YouTube work out video– on YouTube there are several work out videos designed for people of different age groups and abilities. You can share the link to one such video and do it together to keep fit and keep your mind occupied.

Learn a new skill together – this can also be done if you do not have an internet connection however there are many tutorials online related to a multitude of crafts and hobbies that can assist you in learning new skills. Share these videos and support one another to improve through sharing of progress and possible hiccups you may be having.

Watch a live stream together – multiple artists and webcams are nowadays streaming content related to a multitude of topics online to alleviate the mood of their fans in isolation. Global Citizen have partnered up with the World Health Organisation to raise funds through the #togetherathome concert. Artists such as John Legend, H.E.R and Jon Batiste gave free Instagram live stream performances to support this movement. Follow the Together At Home movement here for more details: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/campaign/stand-together-to-beat-coronavirus/ or follow glblctzn on Instagram.   

For those who may be less tech savvy, you can keep in touch in other creative ways as well!  You may wish to go old-school and write letters or postcards that you send or post in their letterbox. You might want to keep a photo or drawing diary, where you share your highlight of the day. You could also send a care package with all kinds of things they would enjoy. This might take longer to arrive if you decide to send it by post, but it will still be appreciated. Make sure to pre-clean any packages you send, or use two bags to eliminate risks of contamination as much as possible.

You could also, unless you’re self-isolating yourself, visit their house and hold a conversation through a window. Make sure you practice social distancing and have a 2 metre gap between you to protect each other.

Social distancing does not need to mean isolating ourselves completely from our loved ones. The purpose of such measures is to keep one another safe, not to cut communication. Let’s use this as an opportunity to be creative and make the most of our time to reconnect with our family and friends in new, innovative ways. 

Resources:

Alderslade, L. (2020). COVID-19 aged care restrictions and tips for supporting elderly residents in isolation. Agedcare.com.au

Daily Caring. (2020). Nursing Home Lockdown: 6 ways to stay connected with seniors during a coronavirus scare. Dailycaring.com

Global Citizen. (2020). https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/together-at-home-icymi-weekend-covid-19/

Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.