Social distancing has become a way of life in America during the COVID 19 pandemic. Seniors who are at higher risk of illness and younger Medicare recipients with health problems are feeling more isolated the longer they need to remain at home. But the good news is that there are several ways that the elderly and physically ill individuals can still stay connected with their loved one, friends, and the community without risking their health. Here are four avenues that homebound seniors can use to stay connected while practicing safe distancing.

Four Avenues for Staying in Touch

1.  Stay in Touch Electronically: Most people already have an iPhone or a laptop with video chat capability. If not, there are some excellent devices designed expressly for seniors and those with disabilities.

• The GrandPad is an easy to use tablet that has large buttons and text for easier viewing. It also has video and visual chat functions that seniors can quickly learn to use. Seniors can use this device to stay connected with loved ones and friends.

• The Jitterbug Flip is an easy to operate cell phone with large buttons and an additional built-in emergency button. Seniors can use this cell phone to enjoy chatting with family and friends whenever they want.

• Regular laptop with the free Zoom video conferencing is a wonderful way to bring the whole family together for a visit. Consider using Zoom to host a weekly virtual family dinner or for afternoon tea with friends.

2.  Use the Postal Service:

• Exchanging letters with loved ones is a great way to stay connected, especially if family or friends are living in another country.

• Share pictures through the mail and add a note with an interesting story behind the pictures. This is a creative way for younger family members to learn about their family history and for seniors to see how their grandchildren are growing.

• Establish a book club with a few friends. You read a book and then mail it to one friend who then mails it to another book club member. After everyone has read the book, you can have a Zoom chat where everyone talks about what they liked or didn’t like about the book.

3.  Social Distancing Personal Visits:

• Window Visits are outstanding ways for family members and friends to visit seniors and younger house bound Medicare recipients. Your loved one can visit whenever they want, but they just must stay outside. Everyone can enjoy their time together without any health risks. Talking with visitors is easy with the use of a cell phone.

• Lawn Visits are another way for family and friends to stay connected. If you have a porch or patio where you can sit comfortably outside, your guests can visit you by staying at a social distance. You can even plan to set out snacks and drinks for everyone to enjoy during the visit. Lawn visits are great for visits with friends who prefer an in-person visit over a telephone chat. This is also a way for seniors who enjoy the same hobbies such as drawing or knitting to get together for a few hours while everyone maintains a social distance.

4. Community Connections:

• Stay connected with social groups you belong to by arranging for weekly telephone calls or daily emails. Not only will this reduce the feeling of being isolated, but it is a way for you to stay involved with current activities. You can volunteer to do at home club work such as maintaining the club roster or creating email newsletters for all the group members.

• Keep in touch with your religious groups. Most likely there are other members within a religious organization that are in the same stay at home situation as you. Volunteer to be a phone buddy for one or more other members. This is a way for people to check in with each other on a daily basis.

• Join a Next-Door neighborhood email group where you can stay connected with your local news. Hundreds of your neighbors are on these email lists. And, many of your neighbors frequently post volunteer offers to help seniors and those with disabilities to do their grocery shopping, lawn mowing, and other chores. There are a lot of people who consider it a pleasure to help their neighbors, and you will be giving them this pleasure when you let them help you.

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