We are now in a post viral pandemic world where the oldest citizens are the most vulnerable. Besides the obvious and ominous medical consequences, adding social distancing for those who are already isolated is heart breaking. Those who are not web savvy and reluctant to use delivery services will be hurt the most. No matter how many goodwill check in calls are made by volunteers and non profits, we have to embolden our older citizens with what I call the simple tele-luxuries to connect with the rest of the world.
I will just stop here and copy most of a recent article on what one young woman is accomplishing in Delaware right now with her band of youthful volunteers. Her program is called Lori’s Hands. Now I am imagining this is being done by phone not in person for now, but it a great blueprint for the future for any local organization to ‘tech up’ the older folks so they can be more self reliant. This to-do checklist would make a great class at a senior center or continuing education class at a community college or even a library.
1. Help set up Instacart or other grocery delivery services. Assist with placing orders.
2. Help with ordering meal delivery/take-out. Look into and suggest healthier and lower cost options.
3. Drop off meals, wellness supplies, prescriptions, magazines and books if you’re close by (and if no one in your household is infected and you/the older person aren’t in quarantine.). Consider leaving items on a front stoop/porch to limit risk of virus spread.
5. Make regular check-in calls and occasional long conversational calls. Ask and share about childhood memories, favorite holiday traditions, trips taken, jobs held, and life advice! StoryCorps offers a list of questions to get you started. This is a fun way to involve children, too. Consider giving your child a recording device to document an older relative’s oral history by phone.
6. Send letters, good old-fashioned newsy letters. Send care packages. Send emails. Send texts. Lori’s Hands has started a Pen Pals program to connect letter writers with our clients who are eager to have something to look forward to in the coming weeks.
7. Help set up access to prescription delivery services or 90-day medication supplies. Talk to the person’s pharmacy or prescription plan about this.
8. Help with ordering over-the-counter medications, tea, personal care items and other wellness supplies from online retailers. Some older people are super tech-savvy. Others we’ve worked with have loved having help with this.
9. Help care for pets! For many community-dwelling older adults, pets are a major concern during times like this. Help with ordering pet food online or drop off pet supplies at the doorstep.
10. Help with accessing and navigating community resources by phone or online. This can be especially important for lower income older adults or others at especially high risk for food insecurity or lack of access to healthcare during the coming weeks. Rather than giving an older person the phone number for a community resource, offer to make three-way calls with the person to the organizations. For people who have trouble hearing, navigating resources alone over the phone can be overwhelming. In Delaware, we can call the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) (DELAWARE ONLY) for help identifying supports like accessible transportation, food banks, and healthcare services.
Links to tour museums are nice but lets get real here. Hope this is useful, please pass on the above link and stay safe.