Addressing Social Isolation

A recent analysis of COVID-19 cases in China showed that older adults face the greatest danger from coronavirus. This means it is even more important for older adults to abide by health guidelines advising social distancing. USC gerontology experts have tips for how you can help them practice social distancing but still feel in touch.

Contact: Jenesse Miller, jenessem@usc.edu or (213) 810-8554

or  Orli Belman, obelman@usc.edu or (310) 709-4156

Think of what they need and help them plug in

  • Fulfill basic needs
    “Provide food, pet food, medicines, and basic necessities for daily living inside the home.  Look at how to meet needs outside our home—what assistance can communities provide with taking out the trash and moving garbage cans, walking dogs, maintenance around our house related to rain or other weather issues.
  • Help them plug in
    “We need to figure out how to connect with older people who may not be well-versed in using the internet and other technologies. Many people do use iPads and cell phones today to communicate with their families.
  • The religious connection
    “Religious congregations have a special opportunity now to reach out to people in their neighborhoods and communities and ask what people need.
  • Reduce their anxiety
    “It’s important to turn off the notifications, television, and news and get enough sleep, eat properly, and if we are able, go outside on a walk without being in contact with other people. We can do this.”

Caroline Cicero is an instructional associate professor for the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

Contact: cicero@usc.edu

5 More Tips

• Families should plan for backup care
“Family caregivers should be calling their agencies that they are working with, to find out what are their backup plans, should their regular care provider call in sick. [How that’s handled] is going to be a business by business call.

• Use tech to check
“If a senior living facility has to close to all visitors, one possible solution: Can we put iPads in there and do Facetime during this crisis? I think the nursing homes can be creative in that way, so family members don’t feel shut out from seeing their relative.

“Residents themselves may not be able to interact via the screen – but it may make someone at home feel better about their relative. It’s just to reassure them that it’s okay, like, ‘I see them, I see the room right now, I can have a way of checking in.’ It’s like a one-way monitor.

• Follow the guidelines
“If you have elderly or fragile parents or other family members, do not fall into catastrophizing this. Make sure that you are following the correct information from the state Department of Public Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control, and not just watching the news. What we can do is help our parents stay calm and reasonable.

“At the same time, make sure you are prepared to help them, should the need arise. Can they give you the phone number for their doctor, for their neighbor, their best friend?

• Host a virtual watch party
“Call your friends and say, ‘such-and-such movie is out; let’s watch it together and be on the phone together.’ It’s going to take a little adjustment. I’ve done that in the past with a friend when she’s gotten sick. Phones are really nice. You put it on the speaker, you put it down, and you’re both watching the movie together. You don’t feel like you’re alone. This is the time to try out new systems.

• Find moments of joy
“Right now, this is a sprint. I don’t think it will be a marathon. And we can still do things. I can stand on my porch and wave at my neighbors. We all need to ask ourselves: How am I going to find those moments of joy?”

Donna Benton directs the USC Family Caregiver Support Center and is a research associate professor of gerontology at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

Contact: benton@usc.edu or (213) 740‑5904

What should older workers do to protect themselves?

Kathleen Wilber is also available to comment on the challenges that older working adults face during this health crisis.

She told KPCC-FM that older workers in the United States now are struggling with a dilemma.

“What are the implications if they don’t have income and they are trying to abide by the (social distancing) recommendations?”

Wilber is a professor of gerontology and expert on health services administration.

Contact: wilber@usc.edu or (213) 740-1736