Veteran journalist Connie Sieh Groop, a graduate of SDARL Class VI, has written several articles about staying positive in times of COVID-19. Here is one of the articles, published by the Aberdeen American News in April.

Pandemic: Take actions to stay positive when dealing with loneliness

By Connie Sieh Groop

When my folks were homebound, the meals brought to them included a friendly interlude each day. The quick exchange with the delivery person gave them a chance to interact and get another view of the world. Such instances are now limited with the recent changes due to the worldwide pandemic as people are told to stay at home.

The Senior Nutrition program touches the lives of many unable to get out of their homes for meals. It is still reaching out but, because of  COVID-19, staff and volunteers are distancing themselves from the people they serve.

Emily Richardt, executive director for the Area IV Senior Nutrition, explained, “When we deliver meals to people, we love to come into their homes and get to know them. Because of the current situation and concern for their safety, we have to just ring the doorbell and leave their meals outside the door. Our volunteers miss the interaction with the people.”

A lot of these people don’t have family and friends in the area. For them, this change increases their isolation. The meal program provides one connection with others, even if it is remote. “For those in the program, we’re calling every day. The individual either calls the program staff to reserve a meal or we call them. These phone interactions are helpful in breaking the monotony.”

“It’s not just about the food, it’s the interaction that is missing,” Richardt said. “The chit-chat is important and it’s also a way to check on people to say that someone cares about them.”

Others also face a new loneliness as restrictions limit interaction. Guidelines say those who are over 65 are at a greater risk for the disease. To reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are told to isolate. We are urged to limit contact with others unless getting supplies or going for medical help.

As many struggle with the limitations, neighborly acts of kindness can make a difference in someone’s life. Offering to pick up supplies can be a great relief. Checking on others with a call or text message is certainly welcome. While some may embrace technology and use smart phones and devices to connect electronically with friends or family, others struggle just to get through the day. No one comes to their door and no one calls. After years of unlimited mingling at malls and restaurants, being alone is reality, day after day. For those whose spouse has passed away or for those who don’t have family close by, it’s extremely hard.

Millions of older adults across the country struggle with feelings of loneliness, isolation and a lack of regular companionship, according to the results of a University of Michigan-AARP poll of adults between the ages of 50 and 80.

According to the survey, which was taken before the current crisis, 1 in 3 adults say they lack regular companionship, and 1 in 4 say they feel isolated from other people at least some time. This survey is part of the National Poll on Healthy Aging sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center.

“We know that social isolation and loneliness are as bad for our health as obesity and smoking,” says Alison Bryant, AARP senior vice president of research.

While confined to our homes, here are a few suggestions to ease the isolation and create a positive outlook until life returns to normal.

  • Start each day by making your bed. That action takes just a few minutes, but it signals that your world is in order and you are ready to begin the day.
  • List three things you are grateful for each morning. Focusing on those positive items sets the mood for the day.
  • Set a routine and have a plan. It might be writing to an old friend, reading a book about a new topic or planning a trip. We are never too old to learn. Be proactive and make plans for when you can get out.
  • Get moving, even if it’s only around your apartment, in your house or out in your yard. Put on some music and move to the beat. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, but 15 minutes can get the blood moving which elevates your mood.
  • Treat yourself. Take out the good china or the placemats you’ve been saving “for good.” Celebrate your life by playing a game or completing a puzzle. You deserve to be treated well.
  • If you have a computer or smart phone, learn how to use YouTube or how to download podcasts. The information available is unbelievable. Free online classes offer opportunities to learn. Or fall back on a neglected hobby by picking up a sewing project you’ve had in a drawer for years.
  • Write your story. Even if you don’t think it’s important, someone may find it fascinating that you rode the streetcar to Wylie Park, helped develop the city’s rose garden or were one of those who worked at Tiffany Laundry. If you have trouble writing, make the notes and invite a friend or relative to help you fill in the story once the isolation is over.

For those of us in our 60s and above, we have faced challenges in our lives, some more than others. This is an unprecedented time. Our goal at this time is to keep ourselves healthy by taking positive actions. We have to draw on our inner strength to get through this exceptional time.

While staying at home, all of us should remember this piece of advice from inspirational author Shannan L. Alder, “One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”

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