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The NSPA Blog

Life in the Age of Social Distancing

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Posted on March 17th, 2020 by Bettina Carlson, under Senior Orphans, Social Distancing, Something New, Tips & Resources

It’s Not As Isolating As One Would Think

Life as we know it has been significantly disrupted, we are living a very different reality than we did just a week ago, it changes daily, and by now most of us are staying home. I realize this may be a stressful and uncertain time for most of us. It may feel like life has come to a stop; as we have to temporarily give up a lot of things. It’s an experience as novel as the virus that caused it. So yes, it can be very stressful and even cause anxiety. But remember the saying “Every challenge we face is also an opportunity!” Let’s focus on that idea of opportunity, see what we discover, and let’s make the most out of it! 

Fear of the Unknown

The uncertainties these days are triggering fear in many, understandably so. Yet fear is not our friend! It is not doing us any good! On the contrary, fear causes stress which weakens our immune systems and makes us vulnerable – mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically! Even socially, as we may start fearing our neighbors or just about any person we may come in contact with. And just like that social-distancing can turn further into social disconnections. And that’s the last thing we want or need right now, don’t you agree?! I recommend, making peace with the uncertainties, and stepping back from fear. Choose steps to take back your control, and thus promote your overall health. Easier said than done, right? Or is it? 

Maybe it’s as easy as looking around and reminding ourselves of what we know:

Conversations will not be canceled

Love will not be canceled

Relationships will not be canceled

Reading will not be canceled

Hope will not be canceled

Music will not be canceled

Self-Care will not be canceled

And more …

Look around you and see what you have control over and use it to your benefit. While we do not have control over the outside events, we have control over our actions and thoughts! Realize this, choose your actions and thoughts mindfully and give them the power to be your fear busters!

Oh! One more thing – hand-washing! The  old “new” tool to fight infections! (And hopefully from here on forward this easy and successful tool will become a steady companion of ours again.) Anyway, instead of singing the recommended birthday song, use the 20 seconds of hand-washing to reinforce positive thoughts. Repeat positive thoughts, affirmations, and goals, for example: I can control my reaction to the things I cannot control; My thoughts influence my actions and those influence my well being; Every choice I get to make is a new opportunity; and so on. Or list the things you are grateful for or the things you wish to happen. It’s a constructive way to deal with fear and empower yourself. And you have ample opportunity to do so! 

Use old-fashioned tools to stay connected. Play board games with your families, enjoy family sit-down dinners (without the rush of beating traffic to get home or make it to an evening activity), use the phone or social media to “hang out” with those not in your home; and more. You may actually find that you are reconnecting with your family more so now than before. There truly is a silver lining in almost everything. 

And please please remember your older adults that are not living with you, as it is common today. Isolation can be quite detrimental to them. 

 Reaching Out and Supporting Older Adults 

What if you have a loved one in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or other care facility, and you are no longer allowed to visit them at this point? First of all, this situation is emotionally very challenging, and no option will ever be a great replacement for human touch. Yet for the time being, with the new no-visit restrictions in place, the following are options that may be your best tools in staying connected, depending on your older adult’s abilities. Focus on those, not on those that you have no control over:

You could make frequent phone calls.

You could get a captioned telephone for those who have documented hearing impairment. (This is a free service that is covered by the FCC.)

You could do video chats via Zoom or Skype or FaceTime.

You could share photos through social media, or via mail.

You could send flowers or treats as a sign you are thinking of them.

You could send a handwritten letter or card. 

Social isolation can also be challenging for older adults living independently. Particularly for senior orphans (older adults without any family or family nearby), for who loneliness is already a greater problem and this current unique situation may only worsen it. 

It is in times like this that we have to take care of ourselves and our families and loved ones. Yes! But I encourage you to think of the older adults that are at even higher risk during this time, too. Maybe you have neighbors or church members that fit these criteria; if so, think of ways you can help them, or better, please check in with them and find out if they need any assistance. Call them, or stop by their homes, keep your 6-foot distance, but please check in on them. Even if you come to learn that their needs are covered, it always boosts peoples’ wellbeing to know that someone cares, and it feels good to make a difference in others’ lives. We Advocates know all about that. It’s one of our super immune-boosting tools!

How can you help?

Ideally, all older adults living in their own residences should have enough supplies of food and toiletries to last them at least two weeks, but preferably longer; especially if they have no one to support them on a regular basis. Depending on their abilities, their health risk, and how crowded grocery stores may have become, you may want to offer to get the groceries for them, or set up a grocery delivery service.

If stricter social-distancing measures are being imposed, it might be hard to visit the doctor to get a prescription or go to the pharmacy to pick up the medications. It is wise to be prepared and have a longterm supply of medication in the house. It’s a good idea to check if your doctor will write a prescription for a 90-day supply. And check with your pharmacy if they will deliver your prescriptions. Or explore ordering your prescription online. There are adjusted services offered currently to make sure patients have access to their prescription medications. 

Encourage your older adult to exercise, to keep moving! Even if it is only in the hallways of their home or around their room, or doing housework. Anything safe is acceptable and needed over sitting down all day. 

As for entertaining themselves during a period of social-distancing, not only encourage them to pursue an activity they like, make sure they have the needed supplies available. Maybe it’s books, or puzzles, or knitting, drawing, etc. Maybe join them in an online game of “Words with Friends” or another game like this. 


Keep in mind that this situation will pass. Until then be prepared and accepting of the fact that changes will occur frequently. Flexibility is the name of the game. You can do it. If you need any help with your older adults or a neighbor or church member, contact us, we may be able to assist you! We are here for you! That’s our mission! 

Stay well! 


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