How to keep loneliness at bay for the elderly during Covid-19
How to keep loneliness at bay for the seniors during Covid-19, virtually and in person
The elderly, being one of the most vulnerable population groups, have been strongly advised to continue to stay home and avoid crowded places and large group gatherings due to the Covid-19 situation.
However, long-term social isolation and loneliness have shown to be risk factors for various conditions including dementia, based on the findings of previous studies. As much as it is important to prevent the elderly from contracting the virus, their mental well-being is also vital.
With the lifting of the circuit breaker measures on June 2, visiting of parents and grandparents is allowed.
Here are some activities and ideas to meaningfully engage the elderly in your family during a visit, or even virtually when you are unable to do so in person.
Recollection of memories together
Family members can do an interesting reminiscence activity with their elderly parents or grandparents. There are a lot of resources to find items or photographs from the past which help as a conversation starter, and you may be surprised to see how much the elderly share during such interactions. This helps to build bonds and keeps cognitive decline and loneliness issues at bay.
Some resources include www.singaporememory.sg and the My House of Memories app.
Watch movies together
This is an enjoyable activity and can potentially trigger a lot of interaction and discussion during and after the film. You can start something virtually like a watch party with your parents or grandparents even if you are in a separate location.
Catching old movies from their era will help the elderly relive memories and perhaps take them back to a time when they found meaning through work or child-rearing activities, revalidating a sense of purpose.
Mediacorp has documentaries uploaded in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil on yesteryear stories and happenings. These short films can be found on CNA's Video On Demand section (www.channelnewsasia.com/news/video-on-demand) or the meWatch app.
Use technology in fun and creative ways
A lot has been said about using technology to connect with family and friends though video calls and chats. Apart from using the phone or laptop for chatting, the elderly can be introduced to apps such as Google Earth, or travel and leisure sites that allow them to virtually tour places around the world.
There are also virtual tours of museums (www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours) as well as concerts and musicals such as Phantom Of The Opera that can be accessed for free during these times.
The elderly could spend two to three hours on these websites, even before they realise it.
Learn something new
Seniors who want to learn something new can take online classes through e-learning websites such as YouTube Skillshare and Udemy. MasterClass is another subscription-based portal that has online culinary classes and media- related learning. Children and grandchildren can use the visiting hours to help their elderly family member become more comfortable using technology.
Look for help if you or your elderly family member require support
There are therapists and counsellors available to consult with over the phone. The 24/7 National Care Hotline (6202-6868) has been set up to offer support during the pandemic.
Resources that also offer counselling and help services include eC2.sg counselling service, GoodHood.SG, Silver Ribbon counselling service and Social Service Offices.
Families can consider choosing a weekly home-based care service, which apart from assistance with daily living activities includes elder-sitting and engagement.
The writer is the medical director of Active Global Home & Community Care