Video chats can ease social isolation of older people during coronavirus pandemic
The elderly are one of the most vulnerable to COVID-19. This vulnerability likely means that they will likely have to engage in physical distancing longer than the general population.
For these adults, staying social during this time, while maintaining physical distance, is crucial. Even before COVID-19, older adult populations have with the realities of social isolation and loneliness. Isolation, however, has been highlighted and exacerbated with the coronavirus pandemic.
Before COVID-19, those of us in the geriatric field were trying to help create a culture of community to fight depression, social isolation and loneliness. However, at present, physical distancing is absolutely necessary.
However, physical distancing doesn’t mean we have to be disconnected. What can older people do now to reduce the distance?
Video calls can help
Elderly people who have used video chat technology such as Skype had significantly lower risks of depression than those who do not have a adult chat. Video calls can help all of us cope with this pandemic and improve the well-being of an elderly population in the future.
Video calling platforms can help support the development of a stronger sense of connection and maintain existing relationships.
Video calls allow older people to stay engaged and be a part of the lives of their loved ones. They can still visit with their grandchildren, have that morning coffee with their friends, and be virtually present for memorable moments like birthdays. This allows older people to remain physically distant, yet emotionally present.
Several accessible and free options are available such as: WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and more. These applications allow the elderly to interact face to face with their loved ones.
Technology is everywhere
While some seniors have good access to technology, some will need help using it.
In a recent survey of communities in the United States, 90% of the elderly expressed their desire to maintain their independence. In North America, nearly 29% of seniors live alone. Therefore, technology is more essential than ever to facilitate distance.
While many can afford to connect with the outside world, about a third of Americans over 65 say they never use the Internet, and 49% say they do not have internet service at home.
So it is likely that many older people will need help with technology. If you are a young family or community member, you can help.
Donate spare phones
When dropping off essentials for a senior, take a moment to remind them of the apps available on their phone that allow video calling. If someone doesn’t have a smartphone, look for aftermarket or older phones that you could use to set them up with essential numbers and apps.
If they’ve never used an app before, recommend the one you use the most so that your familiarity can help them. If you both have Apple devices, we recommend that you use FaceTime. If you are trying to reach someone with an Android device, WhatsApp or Google Duo might work well.
Teaching your loved one how to make remote video calls can be difficult, and it can get frustrating. You can try to get help from a technology services company. Patience is needed when teaching new technologies, but it is worth it, especially since, as research shows, it can lead to long-term benefits.
Right now, we need a human connection more than ever. Calls and texts help, but a face-to-face connection, even virtually, can go a long way.