5 Ways to Promote Independence While Staying Safe

We all want to stay independent and engaged as we age. But, the pandemic has brought significant challenges to seniors who want to live at home and be active in the community.

Adults age 60 and older are at a higher risk of experiencing health complications from the coronavirus. During these uncertain times, seniors and their loved ones need to take a creative approach to promoting independence.

Promote independence while staying safe

Seniors can stay connected through the duration of the pandemic. Here are five steps older adults can take to promote independence and engage with others.

1. Embrace technology

More and more, older adults are embracing cell phones, social media, and online resources to stay connected. This comes at a great time since social distancing is a key factor in staying safe.

Technology can be a great tool for engaging with friends and family, staying current on important information, and participating in activities at home.

If your aging loved one is uncomfortable with using technology, take some time to teach them the basics. Write down instructions so that they can refer to them later. Once they get the hang of their devices, they may discover that they enjoy using technology.

You can alter some of the normal activities you do to include technology. For example, you can use video chat, such as Skype or Zoom, to include older relatives in a family dinner. Or, encourage them to join you in bedtime stories or games via video. Increasing time spent with loved ones over the phone or video can encourage bonding even if you are not in the same physical space.

2. Keep connecting

During this time, it is so important for seniors to stay connected with loved ones and the community. Feeling socially isolated or lonely can have negative effects on a person’s mental and physical health. Whether it’s a video chat, phone call, written note, or text message, those communications are critical.

For some older adults, a large number of friends and family to call on are not available. A phone buddy program is a great way for those with a small circle to engage with others.

For example, VANTAGE Aging’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program implemented a telephone buddy system for seniors in seven Ohio counties. Volunteers call in on older adults for a friendly phone conversation or check-in. The initiative, called Telecare, provides a way for seniors to connect with others and stay engaged in the community.

3. Plan for getting essentials

The more we go out into public places, the more we put ourselves at risk of being exposed to the virus. If you haven’t already, reach out to your support network to set up a schedule for getting the things you need.

You might want to ask a family member or neighbor to pick up your essential items, such as groceries, toiletries, and prescriptions.

Many stores and third party companies offer delivery services for these items. Consider getting groceries and prescriptions delivered to your door. Or, use a curbside pick service from participating stores so that you do not have to enter the building.

If you are concerned about safely getting food, consider a home-delivered meals service. For example, Meals on Wheels of Northeast Ohio provides nutritious meals delivered right to your home in Stark, Summit, and Wayne Counties. A bonus perk is that clients also receive a wellness check and socialization from friendly staff members and volunteers.

4. Use your existing networks to stay active

Many older adults are already involved in community networks. These could include a faith community, exercise class, neighborhood group, or game club. While many of these activities may not be functioning as usual, they may be finding new ways to keep members engaged.

Check with the groups you already belong to and see if they have modified activities during the pandemic. Many may have implemented alternative ways to connect why social distancing.

For example, some churches are choosing to hold services from the parking lot where congregation members stay in their cars through the duration of the service. And, some exercise groups have moved to online platforms where you do activities from home.

These times can feel a little isolating. If you did not belong to a community network before the coronavirus, now might be a good time to explore options. Check with friends and family to see what they are currently involved in.

Getting involved with a group virtually can help you form bonds with people that last through the duration of the pandemic. When things start to go back to normal and are safe, you can look forward to meeting your new peers in person.

5. Take appropriate sanitation precautions

There are a lot of unknowns right now, but some things are in our control. One thing you can do is take proper safety and sanitation steps recommended by health professionals.

Wash your hands frequently. Use cleaning solutions on frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, countertops, and handrails. Wear a mask when you leave your house or are around other people that you do not live with. If you feel sick, contact your doctor and listen to their recommendations.

Staying independent and connected

Our current crisis has caused us to make a lot of adjustments to everyday life. We’ve had to sacrifice some of the things that we love, whether it be spending time with family and friends or doing activities in shared spaces.

The pandemic has made independence for seniors even tougher. But with a few extra steps, we can all stay engaged. Lean on your network of people, stay informed, and continue to connect with others and participate in the activities you love while we get through this.

VANTAGE Aging promotes a positive perspective on aging through a variety of programs and services for older adults. From home-delivered meals and homecare to job training and volunteering, our wraparound services are designed to help seniors thrive. Contact us today at 330-253-4597 or visit us online to learn more.

*The information in this article is intended solely to provide general information on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. This article should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, medical, or other competent advisors.

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