Stay in Touch Amid Social Distancing
Sending virtual hugs and handshakes when we can’t touch
Throughout the news media, in press conferences, and making the rounds on social media, everyone is talking about “flattening the curve” of the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. This term refers to slowing the surge in illness that could overwhelm hospitals and health care clinics by implementing social distancing.
What does that mean, exactly?
Social distancing is a term we’re just getting used to but has been a long-held public health concept. In essence, it aims to keep you at least six feet away from others because of the way a virus is spread, which is through droplets that come out of your mouth or nose and can typically travel up to six feet when you talk, cough, or sneeze. Social distancing, sometimes also referred to as physical distancing, prevents sick people from coming in close contact with healthy people. The measures are aimed at reducing the virus being spread around, and ultimately to protect those most vulnerable, including the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
What size and scale?
In Illinois, social distancing is included within the governor’s March 20 stay-at-home orders. Wisconsin issued a month-long safer at home order, beginning March 24, prohibiting non-essential statewide travel. This includes large-scale measures like canceling group events or closing public spaces, such as libraries and schools. It includes closing restaurants, bars, gyms, retail stores, and asking people not gather in social groups.
While social distancing may greatly reduce your risks, you can still remain in touch with those you care about. Throughout The Alden Network, we’ve pulled together a small list of some BIG ideas that go a long way in keeping you connected with one another and helping you make social distance feel a lot smaller.
Pick up the phone: Nowadays, people spend far more time texting than talking on the phone. Social distancing offers us a unique opportunity to re-engage the phone for its originally intended purpose. Ask open-ended questions, such as “What have you been doing today?” instead of a question like “How are you, today?” You’ll get the hang of it.
Face Time/Skype/WhatsApp: Senior living and skilled nursing communities like ours in the Alden Network have “no visitor” restrictions in place. Since then, we’ve been using FREE “Apps” like Face Time and WhatsApp, to help loved ones be able to see and talk to one another.
Group phone call or virtual pow-wow: Want to get the whole gang together? Try a service such as Zoom, Google Hangout, or GoToMeeting that is free for individual users. Some are using these calls to host a virtual happy hour or family reunion.
Send a hand-written note or letter: Actor, author, and comedian, Steve Carell said that “My mom is the only one who still writes me letters and there’s something visceral about opening a letter—I see her on the page. I see her in her handwriting.”
Follow, like, share, and comment on your friends’ social media posts: Back in the day, wasn’t it a pleasant surprise when a friend would drop by for a cup of coffee? Well, the same is true for visiting a friend’s Facebook page, sharing an image, or a commenting on a post he or she shared. It’s the equivalent of telling someone, “I care about you.”
Post photos, videos, and well, just post on your own social media platforms: At The Alden Network, we’ve helped our residents by getting permission to post photos and little signs with messages for those they know and love. It’s quick, fun, and has everyone counting how many “likes” they are getting.
Host virtual bingo: We’ve been inspired by our fellow senior living communities who have hosted this activity over the public address system in their facility, so that residents can participate from the comfort (and appropriate social distance) of their rooms.
Create a virtual book club: Lots of your loved ones also share a love of reading. Through the magic of Kindle, Nook, and other e-book platforms, you can choose a book to read that everyone can download. The “discussion” can be held as a Facebook post with discussion or can be via a conference call, as mentioned earlier.
Driveway happy hour (or coffee hour): These are popping up in neighborhoods near you, when the weather cooperates. In groups of ten or less, folks BYO folding chairs, beverages, and snacks. “X” marks the spot where they enjoy catching up while sitting six feet apart.
Drive by birthday parties: These little parades are also popping up along the streets of a neighborhood near you. They cruise by, slowly, waving, tooting their horns, and waving.
There are so many ways you can remain in close communication while not physically close to those you care about. History shows that this makes such a positive difference in flattening the disease rate. It may also help you to strengthen the bonds with your friends and loved ones. Let us know what you think. We invite you to share the things you are doing to stay connected despite social distance. We would love to hear from you.