Winter and the Second Wave of COVID Doesn’t Have to Mean a Second Wave of Loneliness for Seniors

A study that looked at the effects of the pandemic on seniors confirmed what many of us already knew: social isolation took a physical and mental toll on seniors.

Not surprisingly, it also found that many experienced a significant improvement in their wellbeing once warmer weather came, bringing with it the opportunity to get outside for exercise and to connect with others.

With winter on our doorstep and the second wave of COVID-19 upon us, many older adults fear a return to the loneliness of last winter, during which many seniors reported feeling trapped.

Keeping Seniors Spirits Up During a Pandemic Winter

Spending time outdoors walking and gardening, and participating in hobbies and online classes are just some of the things that helped seniors stay positive. Connecting with friends and family through window or physically distanced visits outdoors also had a positive impact.

Studies like this one show us that there are things we can all do to help older adults remain positive while riding out the cold Canadian winter and the continuing pandemic.

The key is to help them keep their social connections and encourage them to remain engaged and active even when icy sidewalks make it getting out challenging.

This may not be easy for everyone depending on your circumstances. Work and other responsibilities can make it challenging to help your ageing parent as much as you’d like to. There are also COVID-related challenges, such as restrictions and concern over the possibility of bringing the virus into the home.

In these cases, hiring a caregiver can be especially beneficial. A professional caregiver can help your ageing loved one maintain social connections and remain active and engaged, safely.

Here are some things that you and/or a caregiver can help your older loved ones this winter.

Physical activity indoors

Exercise – even just a little – has been shown to improve a person’s mood, boost positivity and energy levels, and improve immune function.

Even if they can’t get outdoors, seniors can still keep their activity levels up by walking around their home. Seniors living in an apartment can take advantage of the long corridors in their building by taking a stroll. A caregiver can accompany them while implementing safety measures like masks and distancing.

Online exercise classes for seniors are another fun option that combines activity and the opportunity to connect with others virtually.

A mini stationary bike, which can be purchased for very little online or rented from some mobility device retailers, is another great option that provides a seated workout for the legs or even the arms when placed on a tabletop.

Outdoor activities

Don’t let the colder temps keep you or your elderly loved ones from getting fresh air. A connection with the outside world – even for a minute – can make all the difference.

A caregiver can help you or your parent get outside for a short walk or a physically distanced visit with family or friends. This means ensuring that they’re properly dressed for the weather, following public health guidelines such as masks and distancing, and helping them get in and out of the house safely whether they’re just a little unsteady on their feet or have more significant mobility issues.

Indoor gardening

Many find gardening to be cathartic and good for the soul. Caring for plants has been shown to be especially beneficial for seniors, offering the opportunity for care recipients to enjoy the benefits that accompany nurturing—a role reversal that many welcome. It’s also been linked to a reduced risk of dementia.

While winter in Canada doesn’t allow for getting our hands in the dirt outside, older adults can still enjoy some gardening inside by way of potted plants and flowers, and indoor herb gardens.

Puzzles and games

Puzzles and games are a fun way to keep the mind sharp and help pass the time when going out isn’t possible.

Joyful companionship is another one of the in-home care services we offer and our caregivers are happy to partake in puzzles or provide seniors with some friendly competition when playing cards or board games.

Games can also be played with friends and family online using platforms like Zoom or FaceTime.

Taking advantage of all the library has to offer

Books, DVDs, and music can all be borrowed from the local library for free and reserved online or by telephone and picked up by a family member or caregiver for seniors who can’t (or don’t want) to brave the cold or risk being around others.

For computer savvy seniors – or their family or caregivers – libraries also offer online content, including eBooks and audiobooks, digital movies and music, digital magazines and newspapers, and more.

And since it’s never too late to learn something new, it’s also worth looking into what eLearning and online workshops your local library system offers. What better time to pick up a new language or learn how to use Zoom?

Connecting with others, COVID-style

We know how hard it is to not be able to get close to those we love right now. Our hearts aches for our clients who miss being able to hug their loved ones. While nothing replaces the joy of being able to wrap your arms around your family and friends, don’t underestimate the power of connecting from a distance.

Tea with a friend, reading the grandkids a bedtime story, or sharing a meal together can be enjoyed virtually thanks to the telephone or internet.

Window visits or even distanced porch or yard visits – with coats and blankets – can also help seniors stay connected through the colder months.

Our caregivers can work with a senior’s family and friends to arrange regular communication and quality time together that’s safe for all.

Article sources

  • The Benefits of Gardening for Older Adults: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Donna Wang D. & MacMillan T. https://doi.org/10.1080/01924788.2013.784942
  • Health and well-being benefits of plants. https://ellisonchair.tamu.edu/health-and-well-being-benefits-of-plants/
  • An Indoor Gardening Planting Table Game Design to Improve the Cognitive Performance of the Elderly with Mild and Moderate Dementia. Tseng W -W, et al. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17051483
  • Saskatchewan Polytechnic researchers study impact of COVID-19 on seniors. https://educationnewscanada.com/article/education/level/colleges/2/863389/saskatchewan-polytechnic-researchers-study-impact-of-covid-19-on-seniors.html

You Have A Social Routine -Let the Caregiver Help!

Age-related changes may make life a little more challenging, but it doesn’t have to take your social life!

A caregiver can help you stay on top of your social game – or golf game – by taking on some of the grunt work.

Here’s an example of what a social senior’s week might look like and how a caregiver can help.

  • Monday – Attending the tennis and golf club; caregiver drives and carries your equipment
  • Tuesday – Hosting a bridge game at your home; caregiver prepares and serves the food and drinks
  • Wednesday – Having birthday lunch with a friend; caregiver picks up a card and gift and drives you to and from the restaurant
  • Thursday – The grandkids are coming to visit; caregiver prepares and serves snacks and tidies up when they leave
  • Friday – Going on a nature walk with the walking group; caregiver prepares a healthy breakfast before you go, packs snacks for you to take on your walk, and drives you to the meeting point and back
  • Saturday – Attending a wedding; caregiver takes you shopping for a gift, picks up your suit/dress from the dry cleaner, and drives you to the wedding and back
  • Sunday – A day of rest and catching up with old friends by phone and mail; caregiver tidies the house, helps you arrange the coming week’s activities, and assists with correspondence

The Health Benefits of Being Social

Maintaining a strong social network as we age has been shown to have numerous benefits for our physical and mental wellbeing.

These benefits include:

  • happiness and greater positive moods
  • increased energy
  • higher levels of physical activity
  • improved immune and cognitive function
  • lower risk of depression, anxiety, and loneliness
  • lower blood pressure
  • lower risk of diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and some cancers
  • a longer lifespan

Don’t let age-related changes slow you down and keep you from spending time doing what you love or enjoying the company of others. Consider a enlisting the help of caregiver – who are great company, too – to help you maintain your social calendar.

We’re here for you 24/7, 365 days of the year. Give us a call at 1.855.483.CARE (2273) or send us an email to info@LAServices.ca.

Article resources

  • Broader social interaction keeps older adults more active. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/broader-social-interaction-keeps-older-adults-more-active
  • Social participation and the health and well-being of Canadian seniors. Gilmour H. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232607486_Social_participation_and_the_health_and_well-being_of_Canadian_seniors