Photo courtesy: Sam Wheeler
My parents are old, both of them are 70 plus and they stay on their own. As they are getting on in years, their faculties too are diminishing with age. The physical ones are the first to be impacted usually. At this point of time in their lives, while they do like coming over and staying with us, but after a few days or weeks, they start to yearn for “home”.
Despite the several challenges of staying alone, as they age, they still prefer to live that way. There are several reasons for it. For one, they have independence in their own homes, they are in their own space. For another, they have their set of friends and a social circle which is an integral part of their life. They manage their own needs well enough – the vegetable vendor who comes daily and bargains, the maids who come and cook and clean but who also share about their own lives and seek counsel, the friendly neighbourhood shopkeeper who is ever ready to send his “Chotu” with the bag of groceries to service the smallest need.
But all of this has come to a grinding halt with Covid-19 pandemic. They no longer can sit around with their friends, no vendors are being allowed inside the society, maids are on leave.
They are now home alone, old and left to fend for themselves.
It is natural for them to feel as if the world has abandoned them. The source of their social and emotional wellbeing, their social contact and daily routine is disrupted. To add to all of this, they are the ones who are most at risk from Covid-19. Most geriatricians ( Doctors trained in taking care of the aged) recommend social engagement as a means of keeping senior citizens engaged, motivated and healthy. So what can they do now in the time of social distancing?
I share here four tips to help elder’s stay socially connected.
Facetime, Zoom, Skype, probably even a Whatsapp video call come to mind. Whatsapp is one of the most downloaded apps and comes pre-loaded in most smart phones. Elders do not need to be tech-savvy to be able to figure this out. My mom is actually quite adept at it and usually chooses to call me via a Whatsapp video call. Doing the basics is easy as well. However, if setting up an account is daunting, a neighbour or niece and nephew can come to the rescue. My mom learnt how to operate most of her apps through my nephew’s tutelage.
Many RWA’s and society groups are aware that there are elder/senior citizens amongst their midst who are staying on their own. In these times, many in the community are coming together to help Elders with their basic needs. For example, helping them order in grocery or food through apps. Even a regular phone call in the day is welcome for them as they look forward to having a conversation.
I would say that the way my Dad manages his hunger for news is something the rest of us, hyper-connected, twitter-gorging younger generation can learn from. He reads his newspaper in the morning, listens to news on the radio as well and then watches his dose of evening news at 7 pm. That way he stays sane and less anxious.
It is definitely not advisable to be watching 24 hour “breaking news” channels, repeatedly pummelling partial updates of the same content at high decibels. Sure shot of way of attracting anxiety and stress, something they need to avoid.
Staying in touch with people close to you, family or even friends of the same age or even forming some sort of a “buddy” system is a great way to stay sane, exchange news, share about life and seek help if need be. For those of us who are not old – it is a good idea to check in regularly on our relatives and our parents or even our older friends. The world needs more thoughtfulness.
So, even though your parents may be Home Alone & Old – they need not be lonely or socially isolated. In these times, more than any other we need to find smart ways to stay connected.