Staying connected while staying at home: Tips for older adults

Artwork by Kelly Froh

Are you an older adult or do you have older adults in your life that you love? Protecting ourselves and those we love by staying apart is hard. At best, we greatly miss in-person connections (who else is imagining the many hugs they will give and receive on the other side of this?). At worst, people may struggle with isolation and maintaining mental and physical health.

But it’s so important for older adults to stay at home and away from others right now. People age 60 and over are at higher risk for severe illness and hospitalization, especially those who also have underlying health conditions such as

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • asthma and other chronic lung conditions
  • chronic liver disease
  • kidney disease
  • weakened immune system

If you’re an older adult, even if you are otherwise healthy, even if you jog everyday, even if you always get your flu shot: stay home and away from others as much as possible so that you aren’t exposed to the virus.

We recognize that there are some older adults who are essential workers and can’t stay at home. For that, we thank those workers profusely and urge everyone else to do what they can to protect those workers by following the Stay Home order, wearing cloth face masks when in places where you might be in proximity with those workers, and following healthy habits like covering coughs and washing hands.

For those older adults who are able to stay home, here are few ways to stay safe and healthy while still connecting with friends and family, and also suggestions for those who have older adults in their lives.

Stay connected in other ways

During the COVID-19 outbreak, stay at home and avoid having visitors. Even well-meaning loved ones could spread the coronavirus.

Stay connected in other ways. Have a “porch visit” with loved ones without coming into close contact. Tape a thoughtful sign on your front door for those door step visitors to see! Send letters or talk on the phone.

If you have a older loved one, you can help prevent them from being exposed to COVID-19 by offering to do grocery runs or other errands. Drop off deliveries or care packages on the doorstep and have a visit from at least 6 feet away. And do find ways to stay in touch. Leave a card in the mailbox, text a funny photo, or set time for regular phone calls.

Virtual time can be quality time

An illustration of a child sitting in front of a laptop with a grandparent reading a story on the screen.

Read a story to your grandchildren over Facetime, Zoom, or another video conferencing app. Some devices can even turn the storyteller into a character in the book!

Have a virtual dinner party! Schedule time to have a video call when you can “sit down” for a meal with friends and family. Dress up and make it an occasion.

Need some tech help? Here are instructions for some of the most popular video options:

Indoor exercise

Get some exercise indoors to maintain strength and balance.

You’ll find lots of great indoor exercise options here complete with helpful visuals. The National Institutes of Health offers helpful exercise ideas here as well (start on page 44).

Feeling sick?

If you feel symptoms of illness, call your doctor before seeking medical care. Your doctor can help you with next steps, including how to avoid exposing yourself or others to COVID-19 while seeking care. Don’t go to your doctor or the emergency room without calling first.

You can also use a screening tool available from the CDC to check your symptoms.

We’ll be sharing more tips (and comics) for older adults soon! Stay tuned.

Originally posted on April 11, 2020.