Across the country, officials are encouraging people to stay at home and limit social gatherings to decrease the number of people exposed to the novel coronavirus. Also, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) determined older adults to be an especially at-risk group. The CDC recommends that older adults stay home as much as possible to help contain the outbreak and transmission of the disease. In some cases, places where older adults meet friends—such as movie theaters, gyms, coffee shops, or restaurants—have been shut down.
However, the need for social distancing presents a unique problem for many older adults. One recent study found that one-third to one-half of older adults experience social isolation and loneliness normally. Many active adult communities try to encourage social activities through amenities, classes, clubs, and events.
Socializing is very important for those over 55. According to the National Institutes of Health, social isolation and loneliness can lead to serious problems, including “high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, [and] Alzheimer’s disease.” So while it remains vitally important for older adults to stay home and limit physical contact as much as possible, they should not isolate themselves completely.
Here are some ways to stay social while practicing social distancing.
Go for a Walk With Friends
A regular walk with a friend or a group of friends doesn't need to be canceled because of coronavirus. Walking in the fresh air is a good way to get exercise, which can help stave off feelings of depression and anxiety. Also, walking with a few friends provides an opportunity to be social.
Some experts have noted that the virus doesn't grow as well in sunlight, but the most effective methods for limiting exposure are still distance and hand-washing. Experts also urge people to remain six feet apart when outside and wash their hands when they return inside.
Visit With Friends and Family Virtually
Though not everyone is tech-savvy, now is a great time to learn how to use technology to communicate with loved ones. Some people have started hosting video happy hours with friends or enjoying daily calls with family.
Services like Zoom offer free 40-minute video conferences, which work with an app on a smartphone or a computer with a camera. Smartphones and tablets also have video chat abilities, from Apple’s FaceTime to Google’s Duo to apps like WhatsApp and Facebook’s video chat functions. There are plenty of ways to stay in touch with loved ones.
Play Games Online
As the world becomes more connected, there are more and more games to play online, including games like charades. Although not quite the same as a bridge night or game night, playing games online with friends can be a great way to stay social. Instead of Scrabble, try a game of Words with Friends or try online bridge with new friends.
Explore the World Virtually
Although we shouldn’t leave our homes right now, it doesn’t mean we can’t still travel. Many museums have created virtual tours, churches are live-streaming services, and musicians are performing online.
Travel & Leisure put together a list of 12 museum tours you can take from home, while world-famous museums like New York City’s Metropolitan Museum, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, and Paris' Louvre have always made their collections available online. Similarly, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. has long recorded their weekly sermons and special events. Also, many musicians are especially hard hit from the cancellation of performances and festivals, so they're developing ways to livestream shows. New York Magazine put together a list of virtual concerts, but many beloved local musicians who play at restaurants and bars are also finding ways to recover from those lost gigs.