Expert Tips on How to Help Seniors During the Pandemic

Small, random acts of kindness can be huge to vulnerable senior citizens who are in quarantine because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While staying at home can be a life-saving measure for older adults, they might need contact with others to feel they are still part of society. And more practically, they might require assistance in getting groceries, medicines and other staples that they cannot obtain for themselves.

Companies and celebrities have stepped up to help. United Airlines is making calls to isolated seniors and actor Matthew McConaughey was seen playing virtual bingo with residents of a Texas nursing home, according to Travel + Leisure.

“When this is over, you’re going to be telling stories about it, and you want it to be a good story in which you acted well, where you remember yourself being generous and helpful and thinking about other people,” Dr. Karl Pillemer, a Cornell University gerontologist told Travel + Leisure. “This level of isolation as it extends from weeks to months is a risky situation for older people.”

Here are some ways you can make a difference:

  • Stay in touch. Communication is the most important thing people can do to help isolated seniors. This can be a simple phone call to a technically advanced option like a video chat. Some experts also recommend sending cards and letters. “There’s nothing quite as fun as getting something in the mail,” Dr. Joan M. Griffin, an associate professor of health service at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine told T+L.
  • Offer to run errands. Everyday tasks like getting groceries can be difficult. Experts caution you should drop items off at the doorstep and avoid any physical contact with those who are vulnerable to the virus.
  • Have a routine. “If you’ve always invited grandma over for Sunday dinner, continue to make her favorite dish and call her and let her know you’re thinking of her,” says Griffin. Pillemer suggests watching the same TV show at the same time with a senior and have your phones on so you can discuss what is happening.
  • Volunteer or donate to a local agency. If you cannot be with older loved ones, you can call your local department for elderly care and ask what volunteer programs they have, experts told T+L.

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