ISOLATION AND LONELINESS DURING COVID SHUT-IN

Originally posted on “Health Talk For Seniors” by RN Health Educator

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is causing confusion worldwide and this is a hard time for older adults, especially for seniors who live alone.  Being confined to indoors can increase the feelings of isolation and loneliness both which can cause depression or anxiety.  Research conducted through the National Institute on Aging has shown that isolation and loneliness can also lower your immune system and a weak immune can make it difficult to fight off viruses increasing the risk for infectious diseases, heart disease, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and sadly in some cases, death.   

About 25 percent of older adults in the United States live alone, according to a report by the Administration for Community Living’s Administration on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with 43 percent of people over age 60 reporting they feel quite lonely.   Many of the seniors surveyed report that they do not feel lonely or socially isolated; however, there are many others who feel the exact opposite.  As human beings we are social creatures and the absence of social contact can be quite stressful.

Before the shut-down, many of us were involved in numerous productive activities, that included traveling, daily nature walks, spending time with family and friends and now are experiencing areal traumatic change in our lifestyle, basically we’re confined in our home.  For many of us lock-down and social distancing means that we are not able to perform our daily routines, no longer have connections to the support network that we relied or do the things that gave us enjoyment.

Today we are faced with difficult times and challenges of being isolated from friends and family and must look at alternative ways of doing things to maintain a sense of normal.  As we look hopefully forward to when this will pass there are several things that we can do to adjust our activity planning so that we continue to maintain a healthy mind, body, and soul. 

Activities.

Many of us walked several days each week to maintain heart health. The good news is that it is possible to modify our routine to make certain that we maintain a healthy heart and get in our daily 10,000 steps.

  1. You can walk within your community – before the sun is to high
  2. Walk around your home – there are excellent YouTube videos that allow you to walk in your home some up to 3 mile walks.  Although there are many the one that I use and really enjoy is Walk at Home by Leslie Sansone
  3. Exercise at home using interactive video games such as Wii Fit.  They can include tennis, bowling, or boxing and according to The American College of Sports Medicine, exercises done with Wii Fit increase your heart rate enough to qualify as aerobic exercise. (you will need to play for about 30 minutes five days a week).

Mind, Body & Soul. 

Yoga is a gentle form of exercise and stress management that improves flexibility, strength, balance.  With regular practice yoga increasing your body’s efficiency and total health of body, mind, and emotional wellbeing.  One Yoga practice favorite I follow on YouTube provides aFull-Body Gentle Stretch Routine for Seniors and Beginners(link below).Of course, there are many different varieties of yoga videos to choose from so find one that you really enjoy and this way you will look forward to practicing on a regular basis.

(if you’re interested copy and paste this link into your search engine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVCqkiqsz4I)

Communications.

Communication is especially important and can be as simple as a phone call to a friend; however, with today’s advanced technology, even when you’re confined to the home,keeping in touch and staying connected is much easier than you can imagine, and it can be extremely exciting.   For example, Phone calls or Video chats are both awesome ways to stay connected with old friends and a great way to make some new friends.  Consider starting an online chat group for your friends and family, this can be a one-on-one conversation or a scheduled meet-up that allows you to connect and talk with more than one person at the same time.  With these chats you can have conversations with up to 150 people or Video calls that can include up to 10. Of course, you will have to do a little research but to get things started both Google and Microsoft have online chat platforms.  Group chats are much more interactive and can be lots of fun.

Now, if you are someone who prefers reading and sharing thoughts about the books you’ve read perhaps consider starting an Online Book Club, build your own community,and maintain a regular schedule with the group of new friends.  An awesome way to meet new people and exchange thoughts.

Links for detailed information and for Google assistance

  1. https://support.google.com/hangouts/answer/3111943?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en
  2. https://support.google.com/chat#topic=7649316

Link is for similar connection through Microsoft

3. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/start-a-chat-in-teams-0c71b32b-c050-4930-a887-5afbe742b3d8#:~:text=Start%20and%20name%20a%20group%20chat%20Start%20one,you%E2%80%99d%20like%20to%20add%20in%20the%20To%20field.

Quality Time Alone.

There may be many days when you would still like to be active but prefer a quiet atmosphere.  Other than cleaning or doing gardening here are a few simple ideas.  

Drawing & Painting

Activities such as drawing, coloring, or painting are perfect for quality alone time and Michaels, Hobby Lobby and even Dollar Tree have a variety of options to select from.  These activities allow you to entertain yourself while taking a break from reality. 

Start a Journal

Imagine what an interesting story you will have to share, by journaling your day you will remember what you were doing, feeling, and thinking on a particular.  

Amazon and YouTube

Reading or listening to Audio book that are available either purchased through Amazon or full free audio books, movies, and music that is available on YouTube.

I recently listened to fantastic 17 hour David Baldacci audio book titled “Absolute Power” on YouTube.  I made a date with myself and every afternoon for a hour or two, sometime three,  I would have a tall glass of water, or a bowl of fresh fruit, or freshly made lemonade and I’d sit out on my balcony with my feet up and listen to the story.  If the weather were rainy, I would sit in a comfortable a chair in front of the window. Peaceful and relaxing.

Conversations with your Healthcare Provider.

Always consult your doctor before starting any new fitness program, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition or have not exercised in a long time

Remember to talk with your healthcare practitioner about physical activity guidelines specific to your health care needs and medical history.

Prolonged usage of digital devices, including computers, tablets, and smartphones, increases your exposure to harmful Blue Light, which can lead to eye strain, blurred vision, and/or headaches.  It is important that you reduce your expose by taking regular breaks and it is highly recommended that you discuss with your physician the use of digital protection glasses.

Conclusion.

Loneliness during the COVID-19 outbreak has become a major concern and as more and more people are following the recommendations for social distancing and staying at home unless absolutely necessary staying connected is essentially important to all humans. When we are alone and

bored, we tend to focus on negative things in our lives.  Well now we see that there are a number of safe alternative ways of connecting with others.

How are you getting through the lock-down and isolation period? What activities are working for you? Please share your creative ideas in the comments section.

Reference.

Administration for Community Living’s Administration on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2020).  https://acl.gov/MENTAL

ONational Institute on Aging (2019).  https://www.nia.nih.gov/research

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