We are in unchartered territory right now with uncertainty all around us. The stay-at-home order recently implemented in Arizona, and social distancing, has made it extremely difficult to maintain relationships with friends and family, stay active and ultimately find things to keep ourselves busy.
COVID-19 has ended visitation at older adult communities and has made socializing more difficult. This can have a serious impact both short-term and long-term on older adults, especially those living alone. Research suggests that isolation and loneliness are linked to high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, a weakened immune system, depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and early death. How can seniors stay busy and connected during this time of isolation? Many seniors may not have or prefer not to use technology which presents another hurdle.
Below are a few ways older adults or others who are not comfortable with technology can stay busy and active while social distancing:
- Call Family and Friends Texting and video chat may be common practice these days, but a good ole fashion phone call is certainly a great way to stay connected with family and friends when you are not able to see them in person.
- Listen to Music Music can have a variety of effects on our mood. It triggers activity in the same part of the brain that releases dopamine, the ‘pleasure chemical’. Listening to upbeat or lively music can brighten our mood as well as reduce anxiety, depression and stress. Music can also offer pain relief and improve sleep.
- Read Research shows that reading can reduce stress by 68%. Reading can also relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing tension if your muscles. Find a book or magazine that piques your interest. Allowing yourself to be immersed in a good book will distract you from any stressors or feelings of loneliness.
- Play Brain Games Exercising the mind is just as important as exercising the body. Since we are stuck inside for the majority of the day, it is very important to keep our minds sharp, especially for older adults. Not only does it help keep us occupied, but it also stimulates thinking, helps with memory, concentration and overall mood. Games like sudoku, solitaire, crossword puzzles, word games and even jigsaw puzzles are all great options.
- Engage in a Hobby (Arts and Crafts) Using your hands and creating something can have a positive impact on your mental state, leaving you feeling positive and productive. This is a great time to learn a new skill or pick up a new hobby. For example, learn to crochet or knit, draw or paint, bead, scrapbook or get one of those adult coloring books and create a masterpiece. Coloring can be very therapeutic, even as an adult. Many are also helping by making cloth masks. Put your extra time to good use by making something that will help those on the front lines.
- Get Active Just because we are confined to our homes or rooms, it by no means gives us a pass to be sedentary. Physical activity will help maintain our mobility, reduce boredom, stress and anxiety. Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are our body's natural painkillers and mood elevators. You don’t have to do anything strenuous, just get up from our chairs, couches or beds and move around at least once every hour. You can also get an exercise tracker that will give you reminders.
- Clean Out Clutter Having more time at home means more time to clean up and clean out areas around the house. Not only is this an opportunity to prioritize something you my have been wanting to do but it can give you something to focus on and keep yourself active. Start with a small area. Get rid of things you don’t use regularly. Feeling organized and comfortable in your space can do wonders for your mental health.
Social isolation and loneliness is one of the greatest challenges we face with the rapid spread of COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a mental health guide for people who are self-isolating. We must give thought to both the mental and physical affects isolation can have on our community. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health.
And if you do have a computer and are comfortable taking some online classes, Sun Health Wellness is offering a variety of free online classes to help reduce stress, www.sunhealthwellness.org/class-calendar.