How to beat loneliness when practicing social distancing
For years now, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has been ringing warning bells about a quietly spreading epidemic: loneliness. According to Dr. Murthy, a lack of meaningful connections and long-term feelings of isolation have been linked to a host of mental and physical health problems, from depression and anxiety to cardiovascular disease.
The loneliness epidemic is extremely common – in fact, Dr. Murthy noted that more than 20% of Americans admit to struggling with it – and seniors are one of the groups that are vulnerable to its impacts.1 As we quarantine ourselves in the midst of COVID-19 and our “new abnormal,” this is especially true. Not long ago, seniors were encouraged to socially engage with others – and, now, they’re being told to do the opposite to protect their health.
If you’re a senior (or a caregiver for a senior) and are struggling with loneliness, know that you’re not alone. While social distancing is vital to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting your health and the health of others, it’s important to know that social distance does not mean social isolation.
There are many ways to be responsible about social distancing while finding ways to connect with the outside world. Here are just a few ways you can use technology, like laptops or smartphones, to stay in touch with others:
- Schedule regular video calls to catch up with family and friends – you could even set these up during mealtimes and eat together! There are a number of options for how to do this that are easy to use, such as Facetime, Skype, Zoom, or Facebook, to name a few.
- Want to feel productive or find others with similar interests? Join (or start) a mutual aid group through the AARP to stay connected, share ideas, or help those in need.
- A number of organizations – like political parties, faith-based groups, or nonprofits – rely on volunteers to make phone calls. You can participate in this community-based activity right at home.
- Set up a “buddy system” where you and a friend are accountable for checking in on each other periodically by email, phone or over a video call.
As you figure out how to stay connected while being physically apart during this pandemic, we hope you stay safe and healthy.
1COVID-19 isn’t just a danger to older people’s physical health. American Psychological Association.