“Shelter in place.” “Self-isolate.” “Flatten the curve.” Whatever you call it, the coronavirus has made staying inside, alone or with family, a challenge for all of us. These challenges can be magnified for seniors who may have special health concerns or require assistance with the basic activities of daily living.

Seniors are especially vulnerable to the most serious effects of the coronavirus, which makes it all the more essential that they avoid contact with others. As the virus progresses, it has become apparent that some individuals may be infected and contagious while having only mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all. For this reason, it is imperative that social distancing be strictly adhered to by seniors and other vulnerable populations.

At the same time, seniors who are isolated are also at risk for depression, confusion, and other ill effects. So how can seniors stay engaged and socially connected while safeguarding their physical health by practicing social distancing? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Use technology to stay connected. There’s no time like the present to learn to use technology to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. Take it slowly and learn as you go. If you are already comfortable with the cell phone, learn how to use apps like FaceTime or Facebook Messenger to do a video call. Feeling more adventurous? Try an app like Skype or Zoom to video call with multiple people.
  2. If you don’t have a smartphone, use a laptop or tablet to video chat with friends and family.
  3. Go “old school” – send letters and cards to friends and encourage them to write back. It is a thrill for people of any age to receive a friendly word of encouragement in their mailbox.
  4. Start a project. Here are a few suggestions:
    1. Organize photo albums. Jot down the names of people in the pictures as well as notes about the occasions.
    2. Create a recipe file or book to share family favorites with children, grandchildren and extended family.
  5. Learn something new. It’s never too late to learn a new skill or hobby. The internet puts a universe of information at our fingertips. Learn a new language, or finish your college degree with free or low-cost university courses through sites like Coursera. Or, use your internet connection to stream courses ranging from finance and economics to music and fine arts through The Great Courses Plus, which offers a one-month free trial to its library of offerings.
  6. If you live in a condo or other environment with neighbors nearby, consider group activities you can accomplish while staying more than six feet apart. Residents of one Florida condo complex organized a nightly game of “Password” that they play from their front patios, shouting clues across the driveway. Or try Bingo or other games that can be played from a safe distance.
  7. Wave! Just because you are staying indoors, it doesn’t mean you can’t wave to the mailman, sanitation workers or your neighbors as they walk by. A friendly gesture helps make the world feel less lonely.

However you choose to remain connected while being socially distanced, stay focused on how important it is to eliminate close contact with others. Have groceries and medication delivered, ask doctors if you can schedule routine visits remotely using your phone or laptop, and wear a mask and gloves if you must go out. And stay positive! The coronavirus has thrown a major hurdle at our American way of life, but we are resourceful. Even though we may be physically apart, we will get through this together.