MENTAL HEALTH

Seniors can find new ways to feel connected while being apart from family during pandemic

The pandemic has left many seniors feeling more isolated. (Dreamstime)
The pandemic has left many seniors feeling more isolated. (Dreamstime)
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We asked AARP for its advice on how Eastern Iowa seniors, and their families, can deal with being apart so much this year.

Q. It’s been a crazy year for all of us, but maybe more so for Iowa seniors, who may have less regular interactions with other people and more to fear from getting seriously ill from COVID-19. What advice can you share with seniors who are feeling isolated or want to strengthen their bonds with others this fall and winter?

A. We recommend you connect by phone or video call to do things that you love: Cook the same meal in different locations, then eat together. Play music together. Shop online for jeans with your shopping buddy perusing the same website. You’ll have things to talk about without defaulting to headlines or fears, which may lead to more meaningful connections.

Q. How do you think Eastern Iowa families should approach the holidays?

A. We recommend that everyone follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when it comes to in-person gatherings. Should your family choose to gather virtually, AARP Iowa has put together some tips for hosting virtual Thanksgiving. Whether you’re gathering family virtually from around the block or across the country, take some time during your virtual Thanksgiving to give thanks, and remember that being virtual is only temporary. Find out more at www.aarp.org/ia.

Q. What advice do you have for people who are worried about their older friends and family. Do you have specific tips to share?

A. If your loved one is in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, first provide the facility with your most up-to-date emergency contact information. Try to communicate verbally with your loved one by phone and by video call, if possible. Remember to appoint one member of the family to be the liaison with the facility. You can always send cheerful cards and notes, not only to your loved ones, but to other residents and staff as well. And remember to support the facility staff and work together.

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Q. Any other advice on how older Iowans can feel more connected and less isolated?

A. Family members can take this time to gather family history. Ask questions and write down their responses or they can write their own. Record stories using an app, like StoryCorps, which archives all stories for the Library of Congress, and also has do-it-yourself guidance to make your own recordings. Learn more at storycorps.org.

The Legacy Project offers an exhaustive list of life interview questions to prompt answers at legacyproject.org/guides/lifeintquestions.pdf. You may be surprised at what you learn about a family member or friend’s early life, first loves and work or military experiences.

Connect with other Iowa resources by calling LifeLong Links at (866) 468-7887 or iowaaging.gov/programs-services/supportive-services/lifelong-links.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.