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Supporting Your Aging Parent When You Can’t Visit

As precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus continue to be necessary, families are missing their senior loved ones and considering new ways to stay in touch that still allow everyone to stay safe. With caution in mind, many children of aging parents are looking for fresh ways to connect.

The importance of socialization for seniors can’t be denied. Senior isolation can exacerbate depression and anxiety. It can speed cognitive decline and even weaken the immune system. Most people are considering finding safe ways to share moments with loved ones an essential aspect of their COVID-19 response.

Inspired by the dedication and creativity of some of the Essex Meadows families, we’ve compiled a list of some relatively safe ways to interact with senior loved ones. Each family will have to decide for themselves what they’re comfortable with, but hopefully there’s an idea for every comfort level.

When You’re Social Distancing

If you live in the same city as your senior loved one but are practicing social distancing, there are some fun options that can keep the requisite 6 feet between you.

  • Drop off dinner.
    Whether it’s regular take-out Tuesdays or an occasional homemade treat, you can drop off a special meal to your loved one. All the boxes or Tupperware can be wiped down with disinfectant for added protection. There’s something special about sharing food, and this gesture can provide some additional variety to a senior’s day.
  • Put on a play.
    Grandchildren can use their creativity to create an “afternoon at the theater” for their loved ones. Whether kids write an original play or perform the plot of their favorite movie, grandparents will love to sit at least six feet away in the “audience” and watch their talents and enthusiasm.
  • Share a BYO outdoor meal.
    If everyone brings their own food, drinks and utensils, you can safely sit outside, 6 feet apart and catch up over a meal. If you’re meeting with seniors, look for a shaded spot where they can sit and eat comfortably and plan for a more temperate day.

When You Live Far Away

When you’re hours or days away from your loved one instead of minutes away, you may be more practiced in keeping up a long-distance connection, but during a prolonged period with no in-person visits, you might be looking for more creative ways to reach out.

  • Host a “Flat Grandparent” or send a “Flat Grandkid.”
    This idea is a favorite among kids. It’s based on a children’s book, “Flat Stanley” by Jeff Brown. Create a two-dimensional version of yourself and send it to a loved one. They take their flat guest with them throughout their days, on outings, doing chores, sharing experiences, etc. As they do, they take pictures of their adventures and share them. It’s a fun and imaginative way to create new memories from afar.
  • Send puzzles and games.
    If your aging parent is a particular fan of Sudoku, crosswords or jigsaw puzzles, send them some. Puzzles and games are great long-distance gift ideas, because they’re both a fun leisure activity, and they help keep cognition sharp.
  • Find a volunteer opportunity they might like.
    Contributing to a good cause can help your loved one feel productive. You could help by finding a role they might like and can perform safely. If your loved one likes to knit or sew, you could send them materials to make baby blankets or hats for the local hospital. If they have good eyesight and can use a computer, they can count penguins to help with conservation efforts. Or they can take surveys to help Harvard researchers understand implicit biases to help overcome stereotypes.

We know that loved ones are always passionate about the importance of socialization for seniors. We know because we feel the same way. If you’d like to find out more about how residents at Essex Meadows are staying in touch with each other and their loved ones, contact us. We would be happy to offer more suggestions.