As COVID-19 continues to spread, businesses close, and travel bans and curfews are enforced for the good of all, the AARP reminds us that social isolation can have negative effects, as well.
In a recent article, the organization dedicated to aging Americans provides suggestions for conquering the dark side of solitude.
Social Isolation: A Public Health Issue
While many people seek solitude as a healthy, welcome vacation from the noise and bustle of a busy life, solitude that you don’t choose can have the opposite effect.
Increasing isolation and loneliness has long been known as a serious health problem for older adults, as well as for people with mental health issues regardless of age. Studies have linked loneliness to higher risk of early death from all causes.
Living under quarantine is having an especially negative effect on many people’s morale. It doesn’t help that no one knows whether the outbreak will last for weeks or months. Much is uncertain.
What can help are these recommendations from Erwin Tan, MD, a director at AARP Thought Leadership and a specialist in geriatric and integrative medicine.
Find Other Ways to Connect
Humans are social creatures, and even without physical hugs and in-person visits, interpersonal contact and communication is vital for our well-being.
Alternate methods of socializing include:
- scheduling regular calls
- video chats
- online group get-togethers, especially with those that are elderly, medically high risk, and/or alone
Regular check-ins, even by text, can be a literal lifeline.
Those who are isolated, vulnerable, or low on resources should make a list of the people and organizations they can call if they need food, supplies, medical attention, or even just some encouragement.
Dr. Tan also recommends creating a list of the following:
- community resources such as food pantries and senior centers
- faith- and humanities-based organizations
- health care services, including mental health counseling and hotlines
State and local government resources are also available for those affected by COVID-19. These include:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- SAMHAS’s online locator and hotline at 800-662-HELP (4357)
- AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect program
Check out your state’s home page for more local listings.
- Pets help conquer loneliness, and they can’t take care of themselves. Make sure you obtain supplies for their care. Also, wash your hands after contact with your pets.
- Many long-term care facilities are limiting visits and non-essential contact to help protect residents and staff. This makes regular phone calls and communication with loved ones in these residences even more important.
Taking the initiative to reach out to family, friends, and neighbors can help ensure physical, mental, and emotional health for everyone.
To learn more, visit AARP.
*Tan, Erwin. (2020, March 17). How to Fight the Social Isolation of Coronavirus. AARP online.