As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it’s more important than ever to be proactive about maintaining connections — for yourself and others. Research shows that Canadians have been understandably stressed and anxious, and seniors are at a higher risk of isolation. Taking a very practical and planned approach to reconnecting can help you reap the benefits of your relationships while maintaining safety and social distancing.
“Loneliness doesn't only impact our mental health, but our physical health as well,” says Dana St Jean, Registered Social Worker and Pandemic Response Therapist at the Canadian Mental Health Association. “Connecting with others leads to higher self esteem, gives us empathy for others and can actually enhance our immune system.”
Read on for tips, plus watch a recent Amica webinar that includes helpful tools to rekindle connections from St Jean and Ashley Sumler, Amica’s Manger, Life Enrichment.
1. Make a list of your favourite people
If you’ve been in a rut, it really does help to remember and write down the names of people you’d like to connect with, people you haven’t heard from in a while and those who could use a pick-me-up. Don’t assume that people are too busy or aren’t lonely, says St Jean — they may also be craving connection.
2. Schedule meaningful time
Reach out to people on your list and allow time for a longer phone or video call to facilitate real conversation and not just a check in. St Jean says it’s especially helpful for seniors to book regular or recurring times with busy family members. Don’t underestimate how much these calls reduce stress and boost well-being.
3. Kindle conversation with shared activities
Not everyone is a whiz at video calling apps like FaceTime or Zoom, and others may not have a lot of news to talk about. St Jean suggests reading a book or watching a movie separately, then scheduling a phone call to talk about what you each thought.
4. Get philosophical
“At Amica, we’ve started adding ice breakers and philosophical questions to our menus in the dining room, which has prompted some deep conversations among residents,” says Ashley Sumler, Manager of Life Enrichment for Amica. It may sound silly, but having a list of conversation starters on hand can be helpful if you’re chatting with people who don’t see much variety in their day-to-day life.
5. Pump up your sense of purpose
Helping others feels good and keeps us busy. While masked and socially distanced, Amica residents put together Amica Helping Hands Charity baskets for vulnerable seniors. “They were still able to participate, stay connected and give back,” says Sumler. So, why not reach out to your local church, community food bank or Volunteer Canada to see if there are ways you can help from the safety of your home — and make new connections in the process?
6. Send cards, letters and photos regularly
We’re so used to online connections that we often forget the heartwarming power of the written word or a happy photo from years past. (Plus, not everyone has access to electronics.) Getting in the habit of sending mail a few times a month offers an opportunity to reconnect and rebuild relationships.
7. Cue up the creativity
From birthday parades to distanced balcony visits, virtual choirs, online craft sessions and virtual happy hours, Amica has helped facilitate safe connections between residents and their family, friends and neighbours throughout the year, says Sumler. So, why not organize something similar with your friends? Making it a recurring date gives everyone something to look forward to, as well. Get more ideas from this list of things to do while socially distancing.
8. Take advantage of supports
If you’re feeling blue or know that a friend is struggling, review and share the list of mental health support lines for seniors in Canada. Did you know you can call 1-844-529-7292 anytime from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for free outreach support, for instance?
Watch our webinar for more connection pointers, plus read our articles on preventing isolation in seniors, learning tech skills and overcoming loneliness. Be sure to follow Amica Senior Lifestyles on Facebook to hear about other upcoming Webinars for Seniors with nationally recognized experts. From learning about mindfulness to Internet safety tips, Amica helps seniors and their families stay connected, informed and engaged.
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