At this point, it’s obvious to say that COVID-19 has impacted our social lives and home lives…and especially the lives of our seniors. But do we really discuss dealing with the inner realities of being physically confined— cut off from our lifestyle—as easily as we speak of the people we don’t see and places we aren’t going? We’ve reluctantly and busily gone about replacing our routine activities with others…but, still facing a timeline of complete uncertainty, it sometimes feels like a hopeless mental concession to go about accepting the extreme isolation and loneliness, over and over, as we wait for longer and longer safe re-openings. Loneliness and isolation was already a public health crisis for those of us in our retirement years. We’ve adjusted to this new reality, but it feels neither choice nor hopeful. Must we accept the negative effects? How can we think ourselves through the adjustments? Alexander Pope tells us in “An Essay on Man” that “hope springs eternal”…even in the shadow of adversity, our humanity seeks the best in our circumstances.
We CAN be hopeful over the inner conflicts of our new lives. We CAN mitigate the effects of prolonged loneliness—*associated with depression, introversion, and chronic health conditions.
Here are 5 ways:
Clarity — Be clear in how you think about your current adjustments. We are responsible for what we nourish—positive or negative—and we can give that to ourselves. Assess your pandemic changes in a positive way. Keep hope as the clear motivator. For example, ‘eating healthier will help control inflammation and my blood sugar. Every time I am able to do so, I am protecting myself for the future.’
Self Care — There is plenty of time for taking care of yourself in isolation. Use this time to your advantage by using a meditation app, journaling about those good times or bad that never were resolved, reduce your nap so you are focused on a better night of rest, include stretching or yoga— *proven to assist the aged in overall wellbeing. Even small amounts of time are rejuvenating.
Contribute — Your community can be as simple and rewarding as a phone call, a simple note to someone you’d otherwise regularly see, or even sharing a photo on social media. Showing each other our lives right now is staying connected. It comforts and fosters a healthy outlook on our new lives for you…and your family and friends to see and hear from you.
Protect Your Mindset — Limit your news. Chronic fear and stress is proven to shrink your brain and lower your immune system, making you susceptible to viruses. You can stay up to date without overloading yourself. Get into the binge craze and watch your favorite old movies.
Gratitude — Thoughts and acts of gratitude literally rewire our brain for peace and positivity. If you feed the brain negative things, you cannot shine a light on your blessings. Take an assessment of the things that you are grateful for. Make an extensive list. Share one of the items with a friend —you’re likely to enjoy it more and learn from it more deeply. Spread that goodness by putting your gratitude in action to help the few around you in your quarantine. Let something from your list guide you into taking action and be of service to someone close, or someone in need. Simplicity is huge. Words, smiles, and gestures are powerful.
Taking care of ourselves in this time can be overwhelming. You don’t have to be perfect. Just pick one thing, and feel the effects. Something you will be proud of that you have been putting off for so long.
A Resource Note:
As an added support to the senior community, Medicare Advantage insurance companies are concerned about loneliness, and are addressing the health impacts with their own innovations. Social isolation was already being studied by the carriers. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid proactively approved new benefits that address social isolation. As a result, most Medicare Advantage plans now offer Silver Sneakers to help with exercise and a social meeting scene. AARP’s brain games and CVS Health’s Aetna and Humana have piloted Papa Pals to mention a few. Papa Pals match independently living seniors to college-aged caregivers that assist with transportation, household chores, and technology lessons. Look for Medicare Advantage plans to continue to study and improve their services for this chronic challenge.
Stay safe and be well.
About Dayna Schafer
Dayna is a licensed, professional Medicare advisor and broker, a member of the Rise Community. Her agency is located in Saint Petersburg, FL where she has helped hundreds of Medicare beneficiaries navigate the enrollment process by ‘Making it Make Sense’. Since 2002, Dayna has certified with triple the average amount of insurers in an effort to relentlessly seek out the right fit for her client’s healthcare needs. If you’d like to contact her, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org