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  • Writer's pictureKelly Griese

Combating Social Isolation

Many of us were unable to give our mom a hug on Mother's Day and are wondering when we'll be able to visit our families again. Social distancing is necessary right now in order to protect the people we love, but that distance takes its toll. One of the sad ironies of the current pandemic is that keeping at-risk persons safe at home can exacerbate the negative physical and mental health effects of social isolation, including financial exploitation.

Social isolation is the result of a lack of relationships, being cut off from regular social networks or infrequent social contact. People who are older, disabled or otherwise home bound can have a harder time staying connected with their families, friends, neighbors, congregations and other things important to them. The good news is that we can combat social isolation with strategies for social and community engagement.

In family life, this means that even if we can’t give mom a hug, we can engage her in a Zoom video conference with other family members, play card games over the internet, make regular phone calls, have window visits and send cards and letters.

In community life, Indiana’s Area Agencies on Aging are proactively reaching out to their clients to ensure they remain socially engaged even when isolating at home. Across the state, you can find AAAs:

  • hosting virtual sing-a-longs, social hours, literature readings and bingo games,

  • live-streaming yoga, tai chi, balance and general fitness classes,

  • setting up friendly-caller programs and hot lines,

  • holding virtual workshops on gardening and playing the guitar,

  • including activity kits with home delivered meals,

  • making regular wellness checks, and

  • making special deliveries of food and other essential personal and household supplies.

In fact, with clients now accessing AAA programming without having to leave home, AAAs are reporting greater uptake of their events and activities!

Even while the rest of world re-opens, persons at higher-risk for COVID-19 complications will still need to remain vigilant and socially distanced. This makes combating social isolation a long-term commitment. Fortunately we have local resources like the AAAs, as well as national resources like Senior Planet, an on-line senior center, and enGAGED, the National Resources Center for Engaging Older Adults, which offer direct, curated content for older adults  and program ideas for professionals.

This post originally appeared on the Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging (IAAAA) website. IAAAA is an IN-CASE member.

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