Supporting Older Adults in Remaining Active and Connected during COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique and complex challenges for the ongoing care of older adults. Social distancing practices aimed to minimize the risk of spreading the virus to elderly populations, may consequently increase social isolation in a population already predisposed to loneliness and infrequent interpersonal contact. Family members and caregivers are encouraged to use creative approaches toward keeping older adults active, both mentally and physically, to preserve cognitive functions and promote cognitive mood. The following resources and strategies are recommended to maintain cognitive, physical, social and emotional health.
Cognitive training exercises are non-invasive activities aimed to preserve overall cognitive and behavioral functioning. The following activities and web-based resources may be helpful to keep older adults intellectually stimulated.
- Crossword Puzzles
- Jigsaw Puzzles
- Mindful Drawing or Coloring Adult Games
- Read paperback books or listen to audiobooks online. Free Audiobooks can be accessed online from the following websites:
- Rory’s Story Cubes: sharpens your wit, speed, and ability to spontaneously generate narratives.
- Active Minds Association Game: a stimulating card game that requires matching images with respective semantic categories.
Web-Based Brain Training Programs
- Dakim Brain Fitness: a web-based program clinically proven to strengthen skills across multiple neurocognitive domains (Miller et al., 2013).
- Cogmed Working Memory Training: a computerized program empirically supported to strengthen executive and working memory functions in older adult populations (Hyer et al., 2015).
Physical health should be maintained with a healthy balanced diet, regular sleep patterns, and mild to moderate levels of physical exercise (if not medically contradicted) to maximize alertness and energy.
Apps for Exercise Routines
Websites for Exercise Routines and Health Education
- National Institute on Aging (NIH) Youtube Channel offers free stretching, balance, and strengthening exercises.
- Daily Guide from the National Institute on Aging
- World Health Organization’s Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health
Apps to Improve Sleep
Social and Emotional Health
Social activities and interpersonal connectedness is vital to the overall health and wellbeing of all individuals. While social distancing practices may hinder traditional gathering and family customs, it is important to remain connected to older adults during these very challenging and uncertain times. Creative ways to stay connected with loved ones while practicing social distancing may include:
Take a break from electronic means of communication and bring back snail mail! Send handwritten cards to your friends and family members to remind them that you are with them in spirit.
Arrange a Special Delivery:
Order groceries and/or special treats for loved ones through shopping services like InstaCart and Shipt. Prioritize daily essentials and try including small favorites known to brighten their day (i.e., favorite snacks, aromatherapy lotions, flowers, etc.).
Host a virtual dinner date from the comfort of your home with videochat software applications like Whatsapp video call, Facetime, Skype, etc. Prepare dinner, share recipes and tips, and enjoy conversation over a home-cooked dinner with loved ones. If cooking is not a viable option, order meals via meal delivery services like UberEats, Grubhub, and DoorDash, and enjoy dining with one another via web-based platforms.
If not medically contraindicated, encourage continued engagement in physical activities and share brief walks in nature with one another via facetime/phone calls. If living arrangements do not allow for safe walking outdoors, log into web-based fitness programs and sign up for indoor-accessible exercise classes together.
Enjoy a Movie Night:
Sit back and enjoy a movie night with your favorite folks through Netflix Party streaming service. Netflix Party is an extension that offers families and friends the opportunity to simultaneously view a film and interact with one another onscreen making it easier to discuss the plot of a movie with one another, as the film unfolds.
Focus on the present when calling to check-in with friends and relatives. Purposely orient conversations to more pleasurable and optimistic topics to comfort one another during these trying times. Set healthy boundaries that limit the amount of time spent discussing news coverage that may inadvertently increase covid-19-related anxiety.
Apps for Stress Reduction and Mood Monitoring