Ways to Combat Social Isolation During COVID-19

As we all do our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19’s global impact, most of us find ourselves self- quarantined in our homes. While self-quarantine is the best thing to do to stay healthy, it can also come with challenges, especially for vulnerable populations. Many older adults are at risk of isolation during this time, especially if they are alone. For many individuals, social interaction and physical touch can be reduced to just minutes per day, if at all. According to AARP, loneliness and isolation “affect a significant proportion of adults in the United States and have been calculated as being the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Long-term isolation can have serious effects on an individual’s health both physically and mentally.

Effects of Isolation on Mental and Physical Health for Seniors
The symptoms of long-term isolation can present themselves slowly and can be difficult to identify, especially in yourself. That’s why it’s so important to check-in with yourself each day and assess how you’re feeling. If you experience any of these symptoms or effects of isolation, you should contact your doctor or healthcare provider right away to get the treatment you need. According to the Lifeline Crisis Support, here are some of the most common effects of long-term isolation.

• Physical Symptoms– You might notice your pre-existing conditions worsening or the development of new conditions. Headaches, aches and pains and sudden illness are all common physical symptoms of long-term isolation.
• Mental Health Conditions– During periods of isolation you are more at risk of depression, anxiety and panic attacks, especially if you have experienced these conditions before.
• Interrupted Sleep Patterns– You might experience difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or even sleeping too much. These interrupted sleep patterns can cause you to feel tired, fatigued and generally disinterested.
• Changes in Diet– Isolation can cause loss of appetite, which results in sudden weight gain or loss. If you experience these changes, it’s important to notify your doctor quickly.
• Substance Abuse– To deal with the stress of isolation, it’s not uncommon for adults to increase their consumption of alcohol, smoking, medications and drugs. If you have a history of substance abuse and are experiencing long-term isolation, be sure to have support plan put in place.
• Negative or Depressed Feelings – Long-term isolation can provoke feelings of hopelessness and disinterest.

How to Stay Connected during Social Isolation
While we’re navigating these difficult times, the thought of being unable to see our loved ones adds another level of challenge and stress. However, there are many alternatives to help you stay connected to your family and friends from the comfort of your own home while decreasing your risk of feeling isolated.

Video Chatting
While there’s no replacement for hugging your family and friends and spending time connecting in person, there is an alternative that can help you stay connected while also staying healthy. Many people are using video conferencing platforms to speak with their loved ones, while also being able to see their faces. Applications like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts are video enabled platforms that are great for chatting with either one person or large groups. FaceTime is great for Apple products, while Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts are accessible on all devices. If you have a loved one who is living abroad, you might consider using WhatsApp.

Entertainment
Who says you can’t have fun in self-quarantine? There are a wide variety of online platforms that allow you to have virtual parties with your friends and families no matter where they live. These services allow you to watch movies or play games with your loved ones online.

Houseparty– While this application isn’t exactly new, it has become more popular in the last few weeks. While video chatting is a great way to stay connected, Houseparty allows you to video chat while providing entertainment for your group. This app allows you to play games with your group such as: Heads Up, Trivia, Quick Draw and many others.

• Watch Party– Facebook offers a feature that allows its users to watch Facebook videos together. Users can watch videos together in real time while writing and sharing their comments and reactions with their friends. Here are some tips to keep in mind while using.

Netflix Party– Watching movies is a great way to spend your time inside, but sometimes it can get lonely watching by yourself. That’s why Netflix created an extension called Netflix Party, which allows its users to type text into a chat box while watching.

Ways to Learn Online
You might be looking for ways to mix up your day and stay busy. This is a great time to learn new skills and utilize online learning tools. While learning is something you can do alone, it can also help you feel part of a community, especially if you find a friend to learn along with you. If you’re looking for a new book for your kindle, check out Amazon or buy a new book from Oprah’s Book Club. You might even consider starting a book club with your friends and using a video chat to discuss your thoughts.

There are so many ways to learn by using the computer. If you like learning about new topics, you might consider listening to a talk on TED. You can choose from a variety of lectures on hundreds of topics. Other platforms like Teachable and Coursera offer college level courses free of charge, and you can also choose to buy a membership for more access. Choose a course to take with a friend and call each other after to discuss what you’ve learned.

How to Build an Online Community
The best way to decrease you risk of isolation is find ways to build your community of support. Whether you’re video chatting or watching a movie with a friend, the more you interact with others the less likely you will feel isolated. For times like these, the best way to build a community is by utilizing technology.

Facebook and Instagram allow users to post pictures and videos, while allowing friends and family to comment and leave their well wishes. You might also consider starting an email chain with family and friends to stay updated on new life happenings. Group text messages are also a great way to share how you’re feeling and what you’ve been doing each day.

At our Maplewood Senior Living Communities, seniors are busy learning the latest technologies to stay entertained and connected with family and friends during this time. If you’d like to learn more about our offerings or to schedule a virtual tour, please contact us.

Helping Seniors Stay Engaged During COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt worldwide, from children staying home from school to small business owners forced to stop operations. In an effort to protect the most vulnerable populations, including senior communities, self-quarantine has been highly recommended in many places and even mandated in several cities in the United States. While quarantining senior citizens mitigates their risk of contracting this complex virus, it also puts many older adults at risk of isolation and depression. Retirement communities and nursing homes have been taking on the task of engaging residents without gathering in groups, keeping physical contact extremely limited. With the help of new technologies and innovative developments, seniors have been able to learn, socialize, and stimulate their minds from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Maplewood Senior Living has compiled a list of virtual experiences, tours, performances, and online learning platforms to help residents mitigate risks of social isolation and help families feel more at ease during this time of social distancing and quarantine.

Entertainment
In light of the coronavirus, many organizations including NPR, art galleries, and museums have provided virtual experiences that are entertaining and educational.

Concerts
NPR has compiled an impressive list of live virtual concerts organized by genre and performance date. There are programs scheduled through mid-April and its archives are available to stream at any time. While some of the performances require registration and fee, many of them are free to the public. From opera and classical to rock and metal, this list has something for all to enjoy. You can access the entire concert calendar here.

Many symphonies are offering their performance free to stream on your computer or phone. The Vancouver Symphony live-streamed their final performance and made it available for public viewing. The Royal Opera House has made some of their best performances available to view from the comfort of your own home. In addition to their opera performances, you can also watch some of their most popular ballet programs. The Vienna State Opera and Metropolitan Opera of New York City are also available to stream.

Virtual Tours
Take a trip to Vatican City and explore the wonders of the Sistine Chapel. Be sure to use the zoom option to get a good look at all of the intricate details. In addition, you can browse the other museums and special exhibits. After you’ve finished in Vatican City, you’ll land in Indonesia to visit Prambanan, the area’s largest temple complex located northeast of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The Whitehouse in Washington D.C. and the Palace of Versailles also have virtual tours available.

Plays and Musicals
When Broadway turned dark, after mandates to close, it didn’t close doors on its creativity. Broadway HD allows patrons to watch recorded performances. While the first week is free, they do require a small monthly fee to access their programs. The New York Times recently published an article highlighting the newest plays and musicals available for streaming from some of the greatest production theaters of all time.

Exercise and Wellness
Many seniors stay active by making a daily trip to their local recreation center or silver sneakers class. With the closure of these facilities around the nation, exercise must be done from the home. However, exercising from home is easier than ever before. The National Institute on Aging runs Go4Life, a platform that offers online exercise classes specifically for older adults. These exercise classes include chair workouts, stretches, and tips for stretching and building endurance.

While social distancing and self-quarantining can be physically challenging, it also has a profound effect on mental health. Staying isolated for long periods of time can cause depression or depression-like symptoms. Meditation apps, such as Calm, can help mitigate those feelings.

In addition to utilizing apps and websites for mental health, it’s important to check-in with yourself periodically. Here are a few tools to help you maintain your mental wellness:
Reaffirm your commitment to healthy habits- During this time of uncertainty, it can be tempting to reach for foods that are convenient but not healthy. However, it’s crucial to both your mental and physical well-being to nourish your body with food that will sustain you. Make sure to keep hydrated, limit sugar and fat, and eat well-balanced meals during the day.
Extend kindness– Being nice just makes you feel good! While you’re spending time alone, take the opportunity to think about those you care about. Decorate cards or make a video for your loved ones. Now is a great time to let your loved ones know how you feel.
Ask for support If you do start to feel lonely or isolated, do not hesitate to reach out. Call your counselor or family member and ask for help.
Stay connected– Many facilities have asked visitors not to come for an uncertain amount of time. But, this doesn’t mean you can’t visit with your family virtually! Apps like Skype, FaceTime, and WhatsApp will allow you to see your family members without putting yourself at risk of contracting the virus or other illnesses.

Learning and Stimulation
Now is the perfect time to learn something new! Coursera partners with some of the best universities and companies in the world, like Google, Stanford, and IBM, to offer free classes to lifelong learners. Coursera offers hundreds of free lectures from top professors at world-renowned universities. TED (Technology, Education, and Design) is an online platform that provides free lectures from industry-leading professionals, activists, educators, and entertainers. Their archive is vastly diverse ranging from art and education, health and wellness, to environment and ecosystem. There is truly a program for everyone.

While this is certainly an unprecedented time for our nation and the world, it can also be a time for opportunity. At Maplewood Senior Living, we’re prepared to keep our residents active, safe, and healthy during this time of social distancing through by equipping them with online tools and resources. Be safe and enjoy exploring.

The Benefits of Music Therapy for Seniors

Seniors making music with rhythm instruments as musical therapy.

Many adults between the ages of 65 and 85 experience at least one chronic condition such as heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes. Older adults are also likely to experience changes in their physical and mental capabilities, and often seek medical help to improve their conditions. In addition to seeking the advice of a healthcare provider and making necessary lifestyle changes, there are other therapies available that can be beneficial to seniors. Music and music therapy have been proven to help seniors restore and maintain their health, both physically and mentally.

Music for Everyday Life

Even if you aren’t experiencing illness or disease, there are many benefits music can have just by listening or playing an instrument.

Managing grief
Many music therapists help their clients navigate the recent loss of a loved one by using music as a tool to cope with grief. Many older adults find it helpful to capture the personality of their loved one through their favorite songs, or through those that carry a specific memory. Music therapists encourage clients to listen to these songs throughout the process of grieving to remember a loved one and reflect on the time spent together.

Improving cognitive function
Listening to music daily can also improve how fast we process information. Music teaches us to recognize our emotions, and when we practice this often, processing emotions and information we consume becomes similar to muscle memory.

Encourages socialization
It’s not uncommon for older adults to feel lonely or isolated, especially after the loss of their spouse or friend. However, as we age, socializing with others and maintaining healthy relationships becomes an important part of our well-being. Many older adults find music to be a helpful way to connect with others through dancing, reminiscing over popular music from their younger years, or going to see the symphony or opera.

What are the Effects of Music on Alzheimer’s Patients?

While music has benefits for everyone, recent research suggests that it can especially helpful for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. With the help of music, many Alzheimer’s patients see a boost in brain activity, which can result in the following benefits:

Evokes emotions and memories
According to Neurologist Oliver Sacks, music can evoke emotion even in severe cases of Alzheimer’s. When we experience emotions, oftentimes memories are quick to follow. When we pair everyday activities with music, Alzheimer’s patients are able to recall the memory associated with that activity, which can ultimately improve cognitive function.

Encourages emotional and physical closeness
As Alzheimer’s and dementia progress, many older adults lose their ability to express and share emotions with others. However, through music and rhythm, many ambulatory patients can express themselves through dancing which can lead to other expressions of affection like hugging and smiling.

Improves engagement
When you listen to music, you might find yourself tapping your toes or singing along to the words. You can also find this kind of behavior in those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Music has a way of capturing and keeping their attention for a period of time, especially during live performances.

Practicing Music Therapy at Home

You don’t have to be an expert to reap the benefits of music. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association compiled a list of ways to practice music therapy in the comfort of your own home. If you are a caregiver or are interested in music yourself, here are few tips for playing with music at home:

Play music that is familiar. When choose what kind of music to play, go with your favorite selections. If you are choosing music for someone else, think back to what they grew up with, or music from the first concert they might have attended. When we play what we know, oftentimes happy memories will come with it, improving your mood and encouraging positive mental health.

Choose continuous music. Keep the distractions to a minimum. While the radio or playing music from an application on your smart phone can be enjoyable, it’s important to try and avoid commercials and frequent disruptions that can cause confusion. You might consider listening to a CD or record instead.

Use music to create the mood you want to experience. Music can be a great way to practice controlling your emotions. For example, if you’ve had a busy or stressful day, you might consider playing slow and calming music to help you think more clearly and slow your breathing. Playing a fast paced song from your childhood could help boost your mood and evoke positive thoughts.

Encourage movement. If you are practicing music therapy with someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, try adding movement while listening. Clapping, tapping your feet, or dancing if possible can help improve cognitive function by increasing blood flow throughout the body.

Avoid sensory overload. For those who have limited cognitive function, loud music and a chaotic environment can be extremely stressful. You might consider starting the music out softly on a low volume and increasing it slowly until you find the appropriate level. In addition, you might consider turning off the television and shutting the windows and doors.

Harnessing the Power of Music

Playing music with someone one can create a very special bond, especially between caregivers and their loved ones. However, for a more interactive approach, you might consider one of these activities to do together.

Make your own music. Playing music can boost your mood while also improving cognitive function and fine motor skills. If you’re able, you might consider bringing a few simple instruments for your loved one with play with. Even strumming a few chords on the guitar can have a powerful affect on your mood. Instruments like the drum or a steel triangle can be fun to play and simple for those who have limited physical abilities.

• Highlight hobbies. As traveling becomes more difficult, it can be a challenge to see live musical performances. If you or a loved one grew up enjoying the symphony or opera, you might consider downloading a live performance and listening at home.

• Sing togetherAs the holiday season approaches, you might consider listening to your favorite Christmas music and singing along. This can be a great way to socialize with others, while also getting in the mood for all of the festivities ahead.

Music at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how much music can benefit our residents. That’s why we incorporate music into the daily lives of our residents in many ways. Whether it is music softly playing in our lobby to create a warm and welcoming ambiance, a local band or musician performing a concert to entertain residents and guests, or a formal music therapy program designed for individuals with dementia, like Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging’s Making Connections through Music program. You can read more about our partnership with Benjamin Rose Institute on Again and this program in our blog, or contact us for more information about our facilities.