With Ohio gradually reopening and area residents tentatively returning to normal activities and routines, it’s important to remember that not everyone can take equal advantage of the relaxed restrictions. People who are more vulnerable to COVID-19, such as older adults in senior living communities, must remain especially vigilant against the disease and continue to take steps that minimize their risk of exposure. So, while the rest of us are beginning to interact with one another once again (hopefully at a safe social distance), many in this population are still coping with isolation. That’s why it’s so important to reach out to our older loved ones and help them stay engaged as this pandemic continues.
Staying connected with older loved ones isn’t just a matter of preventing boredom. It’s also extremely important from the standpoint of their physical and emotional health. Gayle Young, Director of Marketing, Communications and Public Relations for Sunset Retirement Communities, explains, “Ample research has shown that social isolation and loneliness can contribute to a wide range of physical, emotional, and mental-health problems in older adults,” she says. “In fact, according to the National Institute on Aging, social isolation and loneliness are linked to higher risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death among older adults.”
To help keep our senior loved ones engaged and connected during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Young offers the following suggestions:
Schedule face-to-face visits
Many senior living facilities and communities have been offering face-to-face visits through glass windows or doors throughout the pandemic, allowing family members to check on their loved one’s well-being and just enjoy time together, albeit with a barrier in between. However, effective June 8 for assisted-living facilities and July 20 for nursing homes, the State of Ohio began to allow outdoor visits at the direction of Governor DeWine. Sunset is now providing this opportunity to residents and their loved ones while adhering to all appropriate safety and health guidelines.
“If you have a loved one residing in a senior community, be sure to find out what the community is doing to facilitate in-person visits and take advantage of these accommodations as frequently as possible,” Young advises.
Plan virtual visits
While there’s no real substitute for in-person visits, virtual face-to-face communication using an app such as Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime comes in a close second when it comes to keeping older adults connected and engaged. As Young explains, “You can take advantage of these video-communication technologies not just to have regular conversations with your older loved one, but also to share other activities virtually, such as playing board games, completing the same puzzle and seeing who can finish first, having Grandma and Grandpa read bedtime stories to the little ones, singing favorite songs or hymns, or even enjoying a virtual dinner together.”
Keep the letters and care packages coming!
Though our culture is becoming increasingly virtual, older adults still overwhelmingly appreciate tangible correspondence and packages. So, in addition to emails and visits both in-person and virtual, be sure to keep those “snail mail” cards and letters coming—especially those containing family photos that your loved one can cherish.
Young notes that Sunset also offers “Boredom Busters,” such as word searches, crossword puzzles, and sudoku pages, to challenge residents’ minds and help keep them productively occupied. “If you know your loved one likes these activities, consider putting several of them together and sending them in a package for him or her to enjoy,” she recommends.
Consider a senior community
Young further notes that one of the best ways for seniors to stay engaged and active is to move into a community that’s dedicated to their needs and interests. “Here at Sunset, our residents never have to experience isolation because we have a built-in community and offer a wide variety of activities and amenities that nourish them in body, mind, and spirit,” she says. “In addition, our expansive care continuum includes independent living, assisted living, memory care, and health care, so residents are never put in the position of having to leave behind their home and supportive community just because their care needs have changed.”
For more information on Sunset Retirement Communities, please call 419-536-4645 (Sunset House), 419-724-1200 (Sunset Village), 419-724-1220 (The Woodlands), or 419-386-2686 (Fieldstone Villas), or visit www.sunset-communities.org.
Though Sunset is not currently offering in-person tours due to the COVID-19 crisis, interested individuals are encouraged to call the admissions team at any of Sunset’s locations. These knowledgeable and friendly professionals will be happy to share their insights as well as photos of the various communities. Also, virtual tours of the different Sunset locations can be viewed at www.sunset-communities.org.