Pandemic Changes

Jan Fowler

is author of the best-selling book, “Hot Chocolate for Seniors”(winner of national & international awards); winner of Gold Halo Award from the So. California Motion Picture Council for Outstanding Literary Achievement; winner of First Place Excellence in Journalism Award (SPJ –Southern CA); Town & Gown “Phenomenal Woman” Award; former television host & KSPA radio host of “Senior Living at its Best with Jan Fowler”; speaker, contributing author for “Savvy Women Revving Up for Success”; founder of Starburst Inspirations, Inc. 501(c) (3) nonprofit which supports Redlands Drug Court. Jan welcomes feedback and comments about her columns and invites you to leave her a message on her website.

Pandemic Changes

by Jan Fowler

The coronavirus has dramatically changed how we work, play, think, and learn.  Not only have schools and universities shut down, but sports activities have been called off, travel plans have been cancelled for millions, symphonies and theater are no longer performed live, and families are disrupted by the deaths of loved ones because the virus has spread to nearly every continent in the world.

The odds of developing Covid-19 increase with age so people over sixty are encouraged to stay home. But staying home can lead to depression. And while social distancing and quarantining are necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus, we mustn’t let such measures lead to social and emotional isolation for this high-risk group.

As we deal with this evolving pandemic, it’s important to remain aware of the devastating effects of isolation and loneliness among men and women who live alone.  In fact, studies have proven that people in retirement die 45% sooner if they’re lonely, which is why the loneliness epidemic has been receiving so much attention these days.

We are all living longer lives thanks to space-age medicine, improved diet, and exercise.  And according to the medical community, we tend to eat better, sleep better, and think better when we’re not feeling deeply lonely.  Shared love and laughter are keys to wellness.

It has been proven that loneliness can weaken the immune system, raise blood pressure, put us at risk for heart attack and stroke, lead to depression, and contribute to the onset of dementia. Once upon a time, marriage was the norm for adults in America, but now single people outnumber marrieds so here is another reason why loneliness is prevalent.

Nowadays families tend to be split apart geographically and scattered all over the world. So, though it may help when adult children make efforts to stay virtually connected to their aging parents, social media or zooming are not nearly as personal as receiving a hug from a live person.

Many of us already know of an older person who may be isolated and feeling lonely.  Here are some suggested ways to outreach to them to help them remain connected while quarantining.

We can easily bring an older person good cheer either in person or by phone, by calling them once or twice a day at pre-arranged times so they can have that phone call to look forward to. It also helps if we take an interest in whatever happens to be on their mind and is important to them to talk about.

Since we live in a zoom society, if we are computer savvy and know of an adult who is not, why not show that person how to send and receive a live connection on their electronic device, including their cell phone, so they can have the enjoyment of seeing family members who are distant?

When feasible, we can invite a senior who is living alone to join us on a walk or even a short ride around town.  We can always offer to take them through a drive-through for a milkshake or french fries, then head for a park where the food can be enjoyed.

Showing someone how to watch an online event, such as sports, music, and book clubs can give them a lift. We might also invite them to join us in a game of cards, scrabble, checkers, etc. Or even allow them to reminisce by sharing a photo album with us.

Social isolation and loneliness of older adults present a serious public health risk. It is by bringing people of different generations together in order to integrate the energies of a combined community.

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