Over the coming weeks, many of us will continue to have limited access to the outside world. Or, perhaps it’s more apt to say that many of us will have limited physical access to the outside world during this period of lockdown right across Europe.
If you have followed the news stories over the last few weeks, you will have seen the various digital parties facilitated by video conferencing apps like Zoom and House Party.
For the elderly, however, the period of quarantine can be particularly difficult. The home visits, even if they were sporadic to begin with, might have stopped altogether. Routines will have changed significantly: The daily trip to the store for groceries; a glass of wine in a local bar; a meal out with the family each Sunday.
We should, at this time, encourage seniors to go digital. Of course, that might sound a little bit patronising, and we should be aware that many older people are entirely proficient at using technology. For example, 2020 statistics in the US show that 62% of over 65s are on Facebook, 72% of 50-64-year-olds.
Tech can facilitate better check-ins
But we know that many older people will eschew technology for traditional forms of communication. And, we are in a time when it’s critical to get some face to face contact, even if that contact might be virtual.
That eyeball contact is crucial; not only to combat the simple curse of loneliness, but also to check on their well-being. You don’t always ‘hear’ symptoms on a telephone call.
One of the first things we can do is ask people to set up something simple, such as a WhatsApp or Skype account. Both facilitate video, phone and text messaging, so there is no need to have one account for one thing and other accounts for something else.
There is perhaps a broader angle from which to view things, though; namely, to encourage seniors to approach the digital world with a view to life beyond coronavirus lockdowns. Online dating is one such avenue to explore.
Seniors even have multiple sites to choose from, like Ourtime and Zoosk Seniors, which will cater to all different ‘types’ of older people. Encouraging our older friends and family to explore these ‘outside’ connections in a time of insular activity is important.
Get access to the outside world
It’s also worth remembering that the digital world has already begun to provide alternatives to activities of the physical world long before these lockdowns.
For instance, many of Europe’s best museums now have virtual tours available, and you can sign up for little or no cost.
Seeing Goya’s masterworks at Museo Del Prado up close is a breath-taking experience, but seeing them in a stunning virtual tour is a fair compromise. You should note that many of these virtual tours are posted on YouTube if you don’t want to go the official route.
Getting seniors to be proactive around ‘creating’ content is also a neat idea, although not everyone will take to it.
Making quarantine video diaries, or taking part in the various self-isolation challenges on TikTok, are good ways to connect with friends and family. Indeed, some of the best and funniest content on TikTok recently has been put up by seniors.
We mentioned earlier that it might sound patronising to keep referring to seniors and technology as coming from two different planets.
That’s not true, nor is it our intention. These are trying times for everyone – old and young – so it is up to all of us to think about how we get can get through this. A couple of suggestions to our friends and family might reap dividends long after the virus has disappeared.