COVID cases are slowing and most communities are opening up. People are making summer vacation plans and looking forward to reconnecting with others. But for many seniors, life won’t go back to the way it was. In fact, many seniors may have new worries that friends and family might not be aware of.
Anxiety and Worry Around Other People
Before COVID, seniors were excited to go to a birthday party. They were happy to be there for the people they love. Now, an invitation to a birthday party may make them feel uncomfortable and anxious. They may feel like it’s wrong to have those feelings since society is opening up more now, which makes the feelings even worse.
It’s a complicated feeling. Extreme loneliness is met with anxiety around being with people. Many seniors feel helpless. They don’t see how to make things better.
If you are aware of these feelings then you can do your best to address them and accommodate the seniors in your life. The best thing to do is talk to them about how they feel about society opening back up. There’s nothing worse than suffering while you feel like nobody sees you.
Here are 4 ways that you can make seniors feel more comfortable meeting with you and other people.
1. Let Them Know You Are Vaccinated
Nobody wants to ask everyone they know if they are vaccinated. Let them know when you are! People experience anxiety over not knowing who is vaccinated and who isn’t. You can’t assume someone without a mask is vaccinated.
Just letting them know will make visits from you less worrisome. That worry keeps many people from connecting with others.
Nursing homes have lightened up on their restrictions for visitors. There are still rules that don’t allow many visitors at once but if you are vaccinated you can usually schedule a time to visit a senior in their room.
2. Keep the News Positive
Seniors have time to watch the news and hear about all the COVID concerns. They may worry about other variants of COVID or whether or not they should get their vaccine. Some people have compromised immune systems and worry over that decision.
As seniors, they are the most vulnerable to the virus and they are worried about getting COVID. They are worried about dying from COVID. They may have friends and family who have passed away from the virus. Grieving those losses makes opening up to society even more difficult.
When talking to seniors, keep it positive. Tell them about the good things that are happening as a result of the vaccine. Talk about the great things that people are doing for each other. They have enough worry in their life and we could all use a little more light.
At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind you don’t want to invalidate their feelings. If they want to talk about something that worries them, let them. Don’t tell them there is nothing to worry about because clearly there is. Just take notes and communicate ways to make them feel more comfortable.
3. Spend Time With Them Where They are Comfortable
Talk to the seniors in your life about what they feel comfortable doing. Maybe they want to spend more time outdoors and you can offer to drive them for a walk in the park. Maybe they want to see you but not your children if they aren’t vaccinated.
These are things they likely don’t feel comfortable saying. They may even worry that if they told you they didn’t feel comfortable around your children that you would be offended. Make it easy on them and communicate. Let them know that you understand these concerns and are happy to adjust plans.
4. Don’t Assume
Don’t assume that they don’t want to see you. Don’t assume that since they turned down an invitation to a party that they don’t want to see anybody. Alternately, don’t assume they feel comfortable doing everything now. The world looks very different for seniors, and everybody is different.
Talk to them and find what works for them. We need seniors in our lives and our communities and keeping open communication allows us to accomplish this.
Take Care of The Community
At times in the past year, you may have felt helpless. You may have felt like there was nothing you could do to improve the situation. Now there is. As the community opens back up it’s up to us to make it strong. You can make a difference in the lives of seniors and make our community stronger with them.
We are all getting older. We are all struggling with connection after a year of isolation. Staying connected to neighbors and society is a part of being human and creating strong communities. Be a part of rebuilding society and keeping seniors involved in that growth. We can do amazing things when we stay united.
We have many volunteer opportunities for members of the community. Donations help us provide services to help seniors stay connected and cared for.