Submitted by the Whatcom County Health Department

Because older adults have a higher risk of more serious illness from COVID-19, it’s especially important for them to stay home and limit close physical contact with people outside their household. But that doesn’t mean cutting off all contact with others. Staying connected may take some creative thinking in our new COVID-19 world but it’s worth the effort. 

People who feel closely connected to others have both physical and emotional benefits.

  • Lower levels of anxiety and depression
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Quicker recovery from illness
  • More empathy for others
  • More open to trusting and cooperating with others

Planning for connection

How can older adults keep close ties to community and loved ones and still follow the basic rules about socializingthat we know prevent COVID-19 infection? Start by thinking about the types of interactions that bring joy. Before COVID-19, this may have included:

  • Volunteering with a local organization. 
  • Going to a fitness class, playing sports, or being part of a social club. 
  • Attending worship services.
  • Getting together with friends and family informally. 

The next step is to make a plan to increase those connections that improve your wellbeing and to limit ones that make you feel worse. Most likely, you’ll need to be creative in modifying your favorite activities to fit the constraints of our COVID-19 world. 

Tried and true ways to connect:

  • Catch up with a family member or friend regularly by phone. Choose a book to read and discuss. Trade recipe ideas. Check in about a shared love of anything from Beethoven to baseball to beetles.
  • Write a note or postcard. Even a simple note lets someone know that you’re thinking of them and is bound to brighten their day. 

Express yourself creatively

  • Share a poem, drawing, or other creative project. Creating art can reduce stress and help focus on the good in life. Receiving a handmade card or piece of art is often treasured.
  • Learn a new skill or brush up on an old one. Share what you’ve learned with a friend and ask them to do the same.

Move your body to lift your spirits

  • Get out for a walk, chat with a neighbor, or just enjoy some fresh air. Just remember to keep a six foot distance and wear a face covering if you can’t maintain distance.
  • The YMCA is currently offering free fitness classes at www.ymca360.org
  • Check out the Whatcom Council on Aging’s virtual programming. They offer a wide range of activities from strength training to a Spanish conversation class, a social hour, and TED talk discussions.

Use technology to stay connected

  • Need help to get started with online tools? The Bellingham Public Library has free resources to help you learn technology skills. Senior Planet offers free online basic tech classes for people ages 60 and older.
  • Attend local worship services online or join faraway friends or family for their online services.
  • Make a date with a friend or family member to listen to a concert online, watch a dance performance, or see a museum exhibit. 

Helping others from your home

  • Many older adults have a lifetime habit of volunteering that stopped abruptly because of the pandemic. Safe and meaningful opportunities still exist. Contact The Volunteer Center of Whatcom County to find a wide range of volunteer options from online tutoring  to helping distribute food to assisting in grant management.

Feeling close to others and a sense of belonging is good for all of us, no matter how old you are. Reach out to others, take care of yourself, and ask for help. We’re in this together.

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