By Elise Marie Collins
A little kindness goes a long way, three absolutely wonderful ways to engage Grandparents, parents and older adults who are staying home.
Vital to the health and well being of older adults, social support is hard to come by when you are homebound alone or at a senior living facility. How to connect with older relatives who can’t leave the house? Below are three fun tips to engage with your great aunt, grandmother, parents, or older neighbors.
- Dress Up and Take a Selfie. A few days ago, in an urgent tone, I told my mom to “get dressed, and put on makeup and earrings, because WE ARE TAKING A SELFIE!” My mom took my “order” seriously. She washed her hair and curled it. In her eighties, my mom is fortunate to live an active life volunteering in arts fundraising. With her social life canceled during the COVID-19 quarantine, I could see she was starting to feel down.
Dressing up boosts one’s morale. It’s Feng Shui for the soul. As older adults are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of isolation, asking an older adult to get dressed up and get on Facetime is a wonderful way to reach out. Hearing “you look fantastic,” “I love your blouse, your hair, etc...” is an ego boost for anyone.
If your older friend or family member lives far away or is staying in place in a senior facility, ask them to put on their favorite bow tie and jacket and snap away or have someone else take a photo. Share it with family members via email or text, or post it on social media. This selfie I took with my mom lifted her spirits and got her lots of attention on Facebook!
- Patiently Teach Older Adults How to Use Technology. I emphasize patience because it’s easy to get frustrated, however, this is the perfect way to get closer to an older adult. Make an appointment to screen share, Facetime, or just talk on the phone; do the best you can with the tools you have.
Remember older adults will feel it if you are impatient. Focus on how much you appreciate this older adult. When you are explaining how to post a video on Facebook, calmly explain every step, no matter how obvious it may seem to you.
Recognize that you can truly empower an older adult around technology. “How do you send a photo?” you might ask, ready to hear what they know. This will open them up much more than taking the phone, pressing buttons and handing it back to them, DONE.
The latter attitude reinforces someone’s learned helplessness with technology when actually IT IS NEVER TOO LATE to learn. Technology is actually not difficult to use; it is only when a person (of any age) feels stressed out about it that it becomes difficult.
Here is my dad, who turns 91 next month, on a Zoom call. He learned Zoom by himself! (I can’t take all the credit, but I do always try to empower him by telling him he can learn technology easily.)
- Watch a Movie Together, Even if You Can’t Be Together in Person. Decide on a film to stream. For example, my mom and I loved watching Little Women. If you can’t be together, call your older relative, then keep your call connected (if your phone plan allows). Next, get the Livestream set up, then press play at the same time. Agree to take a break every 30 minutes to discuss what happened or to have popcorn together. It’s so much more fun to know that someone is watching with you. Here is an excellent link on how and where to stream new movies of all genres and themes.
Photo by John Tuesday, via Unsplash
Remember that having fun and creating a deep connection are the most important ingredients in any social interaction. Sometimes we may even miss the mark in person due to being preoccupied or distracted. Don’t worry that you can’t share hugs. You can actually become better at being present in all your social interactions using technology.
Now more than ever it’s important to appreciate friends and family, especially our older ones, by calling and Facetiming. It’s absolutely worth the effort. The joy and connection you create will mean everything to your older friends and family and will make you feel wonderful, too. Regular, positive social interaction releases endorphins, dopamine, strengthens our immune systems and simply makes us happier, healthier human beings. If you have other great tips for connecting with older adults, please leave them in the comments below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ELISE MARIE COLLINS
Helping students and clients form healthy lifestyle patterns is Elise Marie Collins’ passion and life purpose. Her firm belief is that when we take care of our bodies, our purpose or dharma emerges from this foundation of health. Elise has authored three books on healthy living. Her latest, Super Ager: You Can Look Younger, Have More Energy, A Better Memory and Live a Long and Healthy Life inspires readers to optimize their well-being for longevity in the 21st century and beyond. As a recent contributor to a chapter in a Geriatric medical textbook on centenarians, Elise will graduate in May 2020 from the University of Southern California with a Masters in Gerontology.
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