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.
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.
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.
The Benefits of Gardening for Older Adults: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Donna Wang D. & MacMillan T. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/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://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/5/1483
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