This Holiday season is going to be different for everyone amidst the pandemic, but most assuredly our elders. While social distancing during the holidays is a good measure to take to protect our seniors, it can leave them feeling lonely, out of the loop, or isolated. Whether they’re in their own private residence or a long-term care facility, there are still safe activities you can do to let them know they’re loved, you’re thinking of them and they’re not alone for the holidays. 

Here’s some tips to make a socially distanced holiday fun! 

      • Send cards or letters

An old fashioned but still relevant way to stay in touch, is pen-paling for the holidays. Whether you are down the street or across the country, cards and letters share life events and commemorate the season. 

      • Share a virtual meal

This option is especially relevant for Thanksgiving 2020. Sharing a virtual meal can either be done by both sides of the virtual world making a similar dish or food being delivered to your elder loved ones in order to share in the same meal. Via Skype, Facetime, Webex, or just over the phone, the Thanksgiving conversation lets your elder feel included as if they are there with you. 

      • Delivery services

Using Ubereats, Postmates or Grubhub you can send your loved ones meals to enjoy. Or using Amazon, you can send them gifts or packages to let them feel special. Whatever your love language is, it’s always nice to get flowers, food or gifts as a surprise delivery! 

      • Play a board-game virtually

Both parties on either side of the virtual world can play a boardgame together as long as they have the same game, moving the pieces for the other players. This is fun for the whole family, from great grandparents to grandchildren or even those as young as great grandchildren playing anything from Clue or Monopoly to Candyland or Chutes and Ladders. 

      • Window card

Whether their window is six floors up, facing the street, or in a private neighborhood, you can hold up a posterboard or banner sized card to them as a surprise message. Even writing messages on the sidewalks to be visible from your loved one’s window can be a more long-term way to show them they are loved. 

      • Visit safely

When trying to maintain social distancing for the safety of your elder loved ones, there are also some in-person safety options for visiting. Such options include visiting your loved ones with a window of glass between you, or visiting outside with more than six feet away between each other. Always keep in mind the even with a window or space in between, masking up ensures optimal safety. 

Why should you choose one of these thoughtful options this holiday season? 

The rates of senior anxiety and depression have been rising since the start of the pandemic, from 31% of elder adults to 46% in July: “…the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the mental health of older adults is important to consider, particularly because of the increased rates of social isolation, loneliness, and bereavement that older adults may face due to the pandemic. Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has brought attention to the association between loneliness and the absence of social connections and worse physical and mental health, including anxiety and depression.” (Koma, True, Biniek, Cubanski, Orgera, Garfield, 2020). Though social distancing can keep them safe from the virus it could lead to social isolation. Being distant, doesn’t have to mean being apart. You can be distanced and together this holiday season by keeping these methods in mind! 

Koma, Wyatt; True, Sarah; Biniek, Jeannie; Cubanski, Juliette; Orgera, Kendale; and Garfield, Rachel. “One in Four Older Adults Report Anxiety or Depression Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic”. October 9th, 2020. KFF.org