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Staying Connected While Staying Home

The COVID-19 outbreak requires us to change our daily habits, stay indoors unless absolutely necessary, and—if we have to go outside—maintain significant physical distance from other people. These restrictions may exacerbate an already growing problem for older adults: social isolation. Social isolation can (but does not have to) lead to loneliness and studies have shown that both isolation and loneliness can put older adults at higher risk for heart disease, dementia, mental health issues, and stroke.

But limiting physical interaction does not have to mean stopping social interaction altogether. Doing a variety of activities online can help you remain connected with, and even expand, your social circles.

We’ve gathered tips—some high-tech, some low-tech—from our Aging Mastery Program® to help you stay active and involved:

  • E-mail a friend with whom you haven’t been in touch in a while and rekindle your friendship.
  • Read a book to a grandchild or family friend over the phone or via video chat.
  • Share memories (and clean out a closet at the same time). Take out that box of photos that you’ve been meaning to sort through. Then, get in touch via e-mail or phone with the people in the photographs and reminisce about your shared experiences.
  • Do an online workout. Choose from one of the thousands of fitness routines available on YouTube and work out together, but in separate locations, with your exercise buddy.
  • Volunteer online. This is a great way to do good for others right from your home. Options include supporting projects at the United Nations, assisting the Smithsonian Institution, or helping people in need at the Crisis Text Line.
  • Host a virtual get-together. If you can’t meet your friends in person for coffee or lunch, move the gathering online via a group video chat.
  • Teach others your skills. If you’ve been waiting to show the world your special talents, now’s your chance. Use your phone to create short teaching videos and post these online.

Remember that despite the potential negative effects of social isolation, the COVID-19 outbreak demands we all practice it to protect our health and well-being. Try out some of our tips or come up with creative ideas of your own to use technology to help you stay connected to your social circles.

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About Susan Stiles, PhD

Susan Stiles is NCOA's Senior Director of Product Development and Strategy, providing leadership in the design and development of consumer products that inspire, educate, and activate older adults. She’s been instrumental in bringing the Aging Mastery Program® to market and scaling it nationwide via strategic alliances and business partnerships. Susan has 20+ years of experience in design thinking, multimedia, strategic communications, and management consulting.