Retirement

How Seniors Overcome Social Isolation During Coronavirus

By Eric Hymer

April 13, 2020

During the unprecedented global events of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen many examples of how seniors are overcoming social-Isolation. Here are a few ways that they’re beating isolation during quarantine and why it is so crucial to stay connected.

The need to combat senior isolation during coronavirus

The higher risk of coronavirus complications among the elderly has positioned seniors to be more isolated than ever. While senior isolation is not a new issue, it’s definitely amplified by stay-at-home orders across the country. The latest US Census showed that 11 Million people 65 or older live alone. With over 28% of seniors living alone, this pandemic has potential to exasperate other health-related issue associated with isolation. However, we’re seeing more and more seniors determined not to let that happen. The inspiration for this article was to share how seniors are beating the mental and emotional effects of coronavirus. So, we’re going to keep it 100% positive from here on out. Hopefully, you find this information encouraging, educational, and even a little entertaining. There are so many ways seniors and their families, friends, and community are overcoming social isolation together during coronavirus. Here are few that we’ve observed:

Using technology to overcome social isolation

In the past, a stay-at-home order would have made keeping in contact with friends and family extremely difficult. Those in the senior community can remember a time when communication options were very limited compared to what is available today. Telephone conversation had major limitations and also could be very expensive, depending on who you were calling. Handwritten letters, while being very heartfelt, were not ideal for quick delivery or response.

Fortunately today, we have an abundance of options to help us all stay connected in real-time. One positive trend that has come from this pandemic is the rapid adoption of this technology among seniors. Video chat, in particular, has become a saving grace for many seniors wanting to see their friends and family. Platforms like SkypeZoomGoToMeeting, FaceTime, and Facebook Messenger are accessible for anyone with an internet-connected device and forward-facing camera. At our house, we enjoyed staying in touch with our family this way, and our kids have loved seeing both grandparents and great grandparents via Facebook Chat.

Seniors Online Gaming in Social Isolation?

Online gaming is undoubtedly not a new phenomenon. It was a $1.75 Trillion global industry and is expected to be larger than 2.2 Trillion dollars by 2021. However, a very small percentage of that industry revenue is generated by seniors. Many above the age of 65 are accustomed to board games and playing cards more than video games online. But what do you do when social distancing keeps you from getting together for game night? In the age of the coronavirus pandemic, you do it virtually, of course!

The New Virtual Game Night

Admittedly, I’m not much of an online gamer, but I love board games and party games. So it was great to discover so many options available to try and recreate game night virtually during quarantine. Many of them are free and also easy for anyone to use.

For example, Facebook Messenger has games built into the app that you can easily start during any video call. Facebook actually calls these “Activities” and they are super simple to play. After you select an activity, you won’t click any buttons on your phone or device during the game. These activities/games are Augmented Reality” which means the graphics appear as if they were in your video with you. So all you have to do to play is move your face. If it sounds pretty silly that’s because it definitely is, but its also a lot of fun. It’s a great introduction to videoconference games for both seniors and their grandkids because anyone can easily learn how to play. We’ve found that catching virtual hamburgers in your mouth is an excellent way for seniors to overcome social isolation. Here is a video demonstrating what it looks like:

The Next Level of Party Games

If you want to get more advanced, you can download the house party app to your phone, tablet, or computer. This app combines video chat with traditional party games. “Quick Draw,” a rapid-fire version of Pictionary, and Ellen DeGeneres’ “Heads-Up” game are among several available on Houseparty. The app is free to download and easy to invite friends/family to the party.

Another option for the tech-savvy senior is to play games like Quiplash by Jackbox games. I played this for the first time with my family last week, and we were all in tears laughing. This game is great because—as the instructions state, “there are no rules or correct answers.” You submit your answers to group questions and then the other players and viewing audience vote on which one was best. Here’s are some answers for the worst pinball machine theme:

Seniors Overcome Social Isolation - Quiplash Pinball

*Full Disclosure: Our CPA’s would definitely play a pinball machine with a Tax-Planning Theme*

While Quiplash and other Jackbox games are a lot of fun, there is more of a learning curve for first-time users. It also does cost money for individual games or for a “party pack” which includes a wide variety of games. Jackbox games also don’t have a videoconference component built-in. That means to see the other players; you’ll have to set up another video call on a separate device. These are just a few of the many options available to recreate game night and help seniors overcome social isolation.

How seniors are staying physically active during social isolation.

Exercising regularly is difficult for most of us, but especially seniors, even under normal circumstances. So how are seniors managing to stay active now? Well, they’re resourceful, and they’re creative. Watch this video from the staff at Bryn Celyn Care Home in the UK playing a life-size Hungry Hungry Hippos with residents:

A doctor specializing in exercise for seniors put together the “Beat the virus” home program for older adults. This program is great because the only equipment you need is a kitchen counter.

If you want to get more advanced or just want a good laugh, try a workout with Bill Murray.

Bill posted workout videos to raise money for his local gym in Charleston, SC, that has been closed during COVID-19. Bill’s videos are a great way to support the community & help seniors overcome social isolation.

Seniors Giving and Receiving Community Support

Communities are coming together to support the elderly by picking up groceries, dropping off meals, sending encouragement, and much more. The elderly are returning the support by doing whatever they can to help those in the community in need. That may be a heartfelt “Thank You” or some other ways to show gratitude and appreciation For many, that’s taken the form of sewing masks for essential workers, healthcare professionals, and first responders. My Grandma used left-over fabric to sew together masks for local firefighters using a free template from JoAnn.

Creating this network of mutual support has helped seniors overcome social isolation. There are resources available to help seniors give and receive support. On Facebook’s Coronavirus Information Page, you can both request and offer assistance in your community. You can also find ways to support seniors and help boost the morale of loved ones during the quarantine.

Planning for after coronavirus

Taking coronavirus seriously is critical for the safety of our seniors, but current fears shouldn’t cloud a bright future. It’s important to remember that things will be better. Families will be reunited, patients will recover, and life will continue, even if some things look a little different. Seniors can help protect their mental health by focusing on things to look forward to when this is all over.

Our family is looking forward to getting together with friends and loved ones for Barbecue and yard games. We also are making lists of places we want to visit once it is safe to travel. The point is to have goals for after coronavirus subsides. Whether they’re personal, relational, professional, or even financial goals, it’s important to share those goals with someone, especially during social distancing.

We’d Love to hear from you

If you or someone you know is a senior beating social isolation, let us know! This only scratches the surface of all the things seniors are doing to stay active, healthy, and connected. There are still positive things to come from all of this! Please comment on this post below, email us at info@barberfinancialgroup.com, or reach out to us on Facebook or LinkedIn.

You can also fill out the form below or call 913-393-1000 to set a virtual meeting with our team. We want to know how you’re doing and what your goals are for life after coronavirus and in retirement.

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The views expressed represent the opinion of Barber Financial Group an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Information provided is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute investment, tax, or legal advice. Barber Financial Group does not accept any liability for the use of the information discussed. Consult with a qualified financial, legal, or tax professional prior to taking any action.