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Ways to keep seniors engaged during COVID-19

While isolation may be necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic — and vital to keeping higher-risk older adults safe — activities and hobbies can help engage seniors and encourage them to have fun.
“Look for creative ways to keep your loved ones from falling victim to the risks of isolation such as loneliness and depression, which could lead to additional health hazards,” noted Home Instead Senior Care Gerontologist and Caregiver Advocate Lakelyn Hogan.
Consider the following ways:
• Schedule a virtual story time or regular phone touch base. FaceTime or Skype to read a book or a collection of poems. Connect with family members as often as possible over the phone or as a group on Zoom. One family caregiver calls her father the same time each day to do a devotional and say a prayer. Send a quick text to stay connected, even if you can’t stay on the phone. Connecting with an older adult each day could give him or her something to look forward to.
• Encourage your loved one to keep moving. Now more than ever it’s important for older adults to stay active. Check out these exercises from the Home Instead Center for Successful Aging. They could serve the dual purpose of keeping a senior active while helping to improve balance and prevent falls. Encourage an older adult to keep moving around the home or apartment. Even better, suggest an outdoor walk, while reminding him or her to practice social distancing.
• Plan a drive-by greeting. Drive by a senior’s home, apartment or care community. If a senior is confined to a bed, work with staff to position him or her near a window. Hold up signs or messages from family and friends. If you don’t live in the same community as your senior, try to engage a family or church or synagogue member to arrange a greeting on your behalf to help your loved one know you’re thinking of him or her.
• Resurrect popular hobbies. If your loved one likes reading, drop off or mail books and magazines they might enjoy. Some older adults like to knit and crochet, work crossword puzzles and craft. Try to help older adults engage with those hobbies, whether it’s ensuring they get the supplies they need or joining in on the activity via FaceTime, Skype or Zoom. Encouraging use of technology like the senior-friendly GrandPad that offers a number of ways to keep seniors busy with games and interactions with family.
• Make mealtimes an activity. If seniors are still cooking for themselves, help them plan out their menus each week with their favorite healthy foods and make sure they have a way to get groceries such as through deliveries. Phone or Skype during mealtimes to help provide companionship, which can enhance appetite and the mealtime experience.
• Watch a show together. Highlight game shows as one particularly interactive way to engage seniors. Employing technology or even a telephone, sync up times where you can watch popular senior programs such as “Jeopardy,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Family Feud” and “Price is Right” with them. See who can get the right answer first!
• Take your loved one on a trip down memory lane. Encourage a senior to get out a scrapbook and talk about the photos and memories of events they represent. Or look through your own photos you can send to a senior and discuss what memory he or she has of the photos.
“Encouraging loved to focus on staying busy and maintaining their health will help ensure they get through the COVID-19 crisis mentally and physically fit,” Hogan said.