by Melissa Negrin-Wiener, partner at Genser Cona Elder Law
The CDC recommends that high-risk individuals avoid crowds and social gatherings and that they should stay home as much as possible. While there is no question that this is of the utmost importance, when dealing with our senior population, there is so much more that must be taken into consideration. In the wake of COVID-19, we are seeing closures of senior centers as well as cancelations of social groups, book clubs, bingo games, etc.
In addition, it is recommended that seniors do not visit with family and friends as people could be infected with COVID-19 and not even know, while still spreading the virus to others. This has hit the elderly hard and exacerbated feelings of loneliness, detachment, sadness and depression.
Technology is going to be key in protecting the mental health of our seniors. Family members and friends need to make it their business to engage in texting, FaceTime, Skype, video conferencing and even just basic telephone calls. Letters and cards from loved ones will also serve to help deal with feelings of loneliness.
We should also make sure that our aging loved ones have things to keep their brains working. Perhaps they enjoy reading, words games or puzzles, or books on tape. We need to ensure that they have what they need to keep their minds active.
They also need exercise. Almost every gym has created online workouts including chair yoga and chair exercises for seniors. There are also e-books, television subscriptions and online virtual museum tours. Another suggestion is to install cameras so that we can keep a closer eye on our seniors who are alone. It is more important than ever to put these things in place. Facebook groups have been amazing.
Younger individuals have offered to go food shopping for seniors and bring them other things they may need. However, we still need to practice social distancing and either leave things by the front door or remain far away from the person we are delivering to.
As for me, I stood on my parents driveway and tossed the supermarket items to them at the front door. We have to do what we have to do to keep our aging loved ones safe and happy even if that includes postponing gatherings and family events and parties. It is safer for all involved.