A pandemic that started in late December 2019 has caused a worldwide outbreak that has seen people and nations around the world in lockdown where citizens were made to stay home in hopes of mitigating the spread of the virus. This has not only affected governments, economies, and transportation but also the social wellbeing of individuals.
Closer to home, there is a recent study that showed that 49.8% of older Malaysians are at risk for social isolation. Social isolation amongst the ageing population reveals that this has reduced wellbeing, health, and the quality of life for individuals.
With the prevalence of COVID-19, the age groups most affected by this pandemic are the children and elderly. Children are not able to go to schools, resorting to virtual classes in their own home. On the other end of the spectrum, the elderly are not able to go outside as much anymore to meet friends or even to run errands because social distancing is especially important, resulting in loneliness and a decline in physical and mental health.
Here are ten things you can do with and for senior citizens during these times, that we hope will spur individuals to take action and care for one another.
1. Teach them how to do use video on their mobile devices
Now’s the best time to get your parents, grandparents or seniors you’re caring for to learn a new thing this year! Apart from Skype, you can install mobile applications such as Zoom, Google Meet or even use the Whatsapp call and video function.
With all the major festivities happening all year round, video calls are a great way to have seniors reconnect with friends and family, near or far. Beyond learning how to do video calls, it can open up avenues for seniors to participate in virtual web events and even activities like online book clubs or a virtual cooking class with friends.
It may take some time for seniors to get the hang of using it but with practice, they will be able to overcome their fear of technology. A solution is to always be patient, go slowly one step at a time and to not show frustration. The motivation is always there to see family members whether in real life or virtually, and with that, they will try their best to do it right.
2. Prep a meal together & learn a recipe along the way
With all the time spent at home, many people prefer to cook at home or prepare their meals to save time, money, and to reduce outdoor movement. Families can take this opportunity to learn some kitchen tips and tricks and famous all-time traditions and delicacies.
Not only is it a great way to increase your chef skills but it can also encourage conversations between seniors and loved ones and build memories in the family at home.
3. Help create a safe space at home
With everyone spending a lot more time at home, you can help spruce up your senior loved one’s home for better safety and a more conducive environment.
Safety-proofing every part of the home prevents seniors from falling or slipping on the floor, ensuring that their mobility is not compromised and ensuring they will not be victims of home burglary.
You can also read some home safety tips for seniors here.
Going on light exercises such as brisk walking around the neighbourhood (with social distancing in place) or doing low-intensity activities such as qi gong and yoga at home takes minimal effort with less susceptibility to injuries as these activities can help strengthen their muscles to ensure they are able to perform their basic Activities of Daily Living and live a healthier lifestyle.
You can also get seniors to do exercises together over video calls with minimal body movements such as doing stretches using minimal tools like chairs or even brain exercises using just your fingers.
5. Helping seniors buy groceries that are heavy or fragile
If you’re going for your weekly grocery run, take some time to think about an elderly neighbour or a senior loved one staying nearby whom you can help to buy groceries for. There
You can help get heavy items like a bag of rice, cooking oil or fragile items like a tray of eggs or for them so that they would not need to do the heavy lifting or be concerned about balancing all their grocery items.
6. Create a Spotify or music playlist for seniors
Music not only reduces anxiety and the feeling of isolation but also helps improve overall wellbeing. Studies also show that music can help with memory enhancement in seniors.
Research from the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Centre notes that music can ignite powerful memories as it links to powerful emotional connotations. Hearing music we learned between the ages of 13 and 25 can elevate the stimulation of emotional awareness.
You can even take it up a notch together to have a karaoke session!
7. Physical check-ins with a senior loved one
Nothing says care like a physical check-in (provided you sanitise and ensure you mostly keep a healthy distance with SOPs in place). Social interaction during isolation can make a difference in ensuring their personal hygiene and home surroundings are in check.
Families or individuals can also rely on care service providers like Homage to provide value to help with routine physical check-ins and companionship, to ensure their senior loved ones are safe and sound.
8. Accompanying them to run errands
Living in a generation of e-wallets and online banking, going cashless, or getting things on online platforms have accelerated the choice for individuals to go contact-free during the pandemic.
However, this may not be an option for seniors and we would never really think about the impact it has on the elderly who may not be as technologically savvy. With the prevalence of news and unfortunate stories of elderly people falling into financial scams time and again, elderly safety is ever more important in times like these.
Take the initiative to intentionally help out a senior loved one with their errands to the bank or even to places like their local market can help with ensuring that they would not be victimised or preyed on by scammers.
9. Travelling the world – virtually
Time to fill that wanderlust and go on a virtual weekend vacation! Take a trip to different museums in the world here or explore locations on Google Earth together with them.
This is sure to spark some conversations with places they’ve travelled to in the past and to share between your loved ones and your experiences as well, which leads us to our next point…
10. Having intentional conversations
The simplest way to get seniors to talk would be to start with conversations about their past. Many times, we would not want to start a conversation with an older person because we don’t know what to talk about or wonder if it would be relatable, but once you dig deep and ask questions with an open ingenuity, seniors tend to open up and are willing to share.
Here are some questions you can ask a senior loved one:
- What was your favourite movie growing up?
- What are your favourite food and why (Sure to be a hit with most Malaysians)
- What have you been doing these past few days?
- What was the most interesting thing today/yesterday/this week?
- Do you have any advice for me with my career/studies/life?
- To ask them what their favourite hobby is right now
- Were there any pandemics in the past? What did you do then?
Living life, the holistic way
We hope these ideas will help keep individuals and seniors engaged creatively during difficult times and make it easier for them to cope so that they will be able to live a quality life even during a pandemic like COVID-19.