It looks increasingly likely that older people over 70 may be asked to self-isolate for up to four months. Isolation brings with it a host of wellbeing issues including loneliness. Whether you have elderly parents or relatives, friends or just a retired neighbour or two, there are ways you can help them avoid loneliness during lockdown.
According to Age UK, more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. Think how much worse that will be if you can’t go out for four months. Feeling isolated and vulnerable can foster depression, higher blood pressure and a serious decline in physical and mental wellbeing. This is often compounded as many older people tend not to ask for help because they have too much pride, so reach out.
Regular communication is vital. Don’t just text, but phone each day for a quick chat. Ask neighbours for their numbers and call every few days. You may end up with some new friends. Grandparents could read bedtime stories to their grandchildren or help with homework. Find some activities you can share, like doing a crossword or playing Scrabble. Have your children ask the very old how their own childhood memories of things like food rationing or blackouts compared. If they’re not that old, maybe try the Winter of Discontent. Learn your family history. Share stories.
Keeping in touch is much easier if the elderly are computer literate. Introduce them to Skype or Facetime or perhaps send them a Portal device. Introduce them to sites like Reddit, YouTube and Bored Panda, as well as online games, puzzles and quiz show apps, BBC iPlayer and Netflix. You can follow the same YouTube work outs, play World of Warcraft or Minecraft together, or bond over video clips of people falling off their mountain bikes.
Be your own episode of Gogglebox. Form a family or neighbourhood book or film club. If they enjoy singing, try DanceSing’s livestreamed classes at facebook.com/groups/197594221546169/.
If they’re a bit scared of technology, then put them in touch with Silver City Surfers. They do great work with the over 55s helping them become comfortable and confident with technology. They’ve suspended face to face sessions, but you can still book a phone session with a tutor. Call 07799 371329 and the coordinator will take the booking. They can also signpost useful sites such as the NHS symptom checker, on line shopping, keeping in touch with family and friends, e books and films. Find out more at silvercitysurfers.co.uk and support their efforts via Amazon Smile.
If online shopping and home deliveries are still taking place, then send the odd gift or care package. It needn’t be anything big, but a card from moonpig.com or a touchnote.com postcard of your child’s portrait of their great auntie will long be appreciated. A delivery of flowers, chocolates, books, toiletries or a bottle of gin may also brighten up someone’s week and let them know they are not alone.
You can also arrange food deliveries from Gousto or Hello Fresh, though most provide meals for two people. Wiltshire Farm Foods specialises in food for the elderly which just requires reheating, ideal if your relative isn’t exactly Prue Leith.
Think about those in the wider community who may need your help too. Donate to local foodbanks or charities which help the elderly. No-one should be left feeling isolated, alone and uncared for. Do what you can.