One of the best parts of living in a retirement village is the community spirit and atmosphere – there are always things to do, people to see, and activities to take part in. So what happens when there’s a pandemic and our residents need to practise social distancing?
It can be an isolating and challenging time. On top of worries for their own health, your loved one’s way of life and daily routine have changed dramatically. Even though you may not be able to visit face-to-face, there are lots of ways you can continue to provide support, which in turn will help them maintain their physical and mental wellbeing.
It’s important that your loved one has two weeks of medical supplies on hand, so why not offer to fill their script at the pharmacist? Otherwise, if they’re over 70, have a chronic health condition, or are isolating at home, prescription medication can be delivered free of charge once a month via the Home Medicines Service.
2. Groceries and essential supplies
Both Coles and Woolworths are providing a priority service for vulnerable sections of the community, including seniors. This will ensure that older Australians are still able to order groceries online. You could register them for this priority service and, if ordering groceries online is too unfamiliar for them, offer to do it for them.
3. Make connections
Social media is all about connecting online. However, for your loved one in a retirement village, it may not be an important part of their life. Check in to see if you can help them navigate the online world. Do they need help joining a WhatsApp group for your family? Do they know how to use FaceTime or Skype so they can see you while you chat? What about using Facebook or accessing online puzzles and crosswords? Find out what would be useful and help them with the technological side if need be.
4. Homework help
If you have school-aged children, consider asking your loved one to help with homework. Set up a daily or weekly call and find something that’s easy to ‘test’ over the phone, like spelling or listening to your child read.
5. Get crafty
On this note, if you have young children, you could ask them to create some artwork, paint a picture, or complete a craft project to post to your family or friend. Some original artwork would no doubt brighten your loved one’s day – as well as the walls of their home!
6. Get techy
If your kids are older or particularly tech-savvy, they could create a book using an app like Book Creator, or a video of their daily life to share with your loved one.
7. Get musical
There’s nothing like human contact to feel loved and connected. In the absence of this, think about what would make your friend or family member laugh or smile. How about a video of your household singing or dancing to their favourite song? Or of you playing a childhood instrument for a fun trip down memory lane?
8. Put your heads together
Ask your kids, neighbours and friends if they have ideas for how best to support your loved one. They’re bound to be creative and might have out-of-the-box solutions. Coming up with ideas together has multiple benefits. Not only will it help bolster your loved one in the village, but having a shared purpose will probably help you feel good too.
9. Put pen to paper
When did you last write a letter or postcard? Now’s the time. If your daily routine feels a little stale, why don’t you write about a favourite childhood memory? If you’re a friend rather than family member, you could write about when you first met. Maybe ask questions about their life and childhood. Think about the joy you’ll spark when your loved one opens the mailbox to find a new letter waiting.
10. Open the history books
Consider writing a family history or researching your genealogy. It might even be a timely project for your loved one to focus on – you could ask them to jot down childhood memories, stories about their life, or the tale behind their favourite photograph. Think about pulling this information into a book of family history for you to pore over together at a later date.
11. Crack the code
The new lexicon around coronavirus can be confusing and the news moves quickly. A month ago, not many of us would have heard of social distancing or self-isolation. Make sure your loved one uses trusted sources of information for their updates, and help them understand the language around the pandemic if they’re finding it overwhelming.
12. Switch off
Encourage your loved one to give themselves space and take a break from the news if it’s getting too much. You can reassure them that we’ll keep them informed of any major changes happening in our village, or any changes to our COVID-19 guidelines.
13. Book or movie club
Does your loved one adore books or movies? If so, then why not set up a book or movie club? This would help give them focus and connection outside their village. Consider setting up WhatsApp or video calls for this.
14. Daily wellness check-ins
The current situation can feel isolating and overwhelming, but we’re in this together. We can arrange a daily wellness check-in to see how your loved one is travelling. Please ask them to get in touch with their Village Manager to arrange this.
15. Most important of all, stay in touch!
Get creative and contact your loved ones in many different ways – phone calls, video calls, texts, letters, social media, and funny memes. We don’t know what the future holds but Australians might need to practise social distancing for several months. This is bound to be a tough and challenging time for your loved one and they need your support more than ever. Love them, call them, and embrace them in a big virtual hug.