In the past year, I can hardly remember when I could make a phone call, expecting to hear the voice of a representative and not have the COVID message reminding me of the changes and holding me longer due to the pandemic. So, on the one hand, I tried to understand; on the other, I was a bit annoyed.
The eternal season of COVID had marched into our lives and taken us hostage. An uninvited guest was unpacking its suitcase of contradictions, just as we were trying to make sense of all the political hoorah, the ongoing racial tension, and other unexpected guests attempting to take over our brains.
While writing articles for our community newsletter, my advice to peers was to disconnect from television news reports if they were becoming addictive. It is OK to stay informed, but if it produces a headache and upset tummy, turn it off, or find something amusing to watch! I would rather watch SpongeBob Square pants than get myself twisted up in matters I have no control over. If you can, find an old movie and indulge in nostalgia that will keep you laughing and healthily recalling the good old days.
The other night I watched the original 1933 version of The Invisible Man with Claude Rains, and thought how cool it would be to become invisible. I would shake up many places and make sure people got what was coming to them without red tape and loopholes—just my little trip into my imaginary world. The real world holds for me an ongoing quest to keep our peers relevant and lively.
Helping seniors to remain engaged is no small feat. Once we unscrambled the new COVID-speak and determined we would not let it make us afraid, we began devising ways to get around it while staying safe. We also found ways to keep others informed. It has become an ongoing but worthwhile battle that we refuse to lose.
In our community, we made virtual games. We found ways to deliver commodity foods throughout the building because we could no longer “gather.” Still, it took extra effort to roust them out and have them be accounted for those already frightened and isolated. Though small, socially distanced art projects and limited grocery store bus trips, coffee gatherings became ways for some to socialize and get out of the Twilight Zone, aka the apartment.
I have friends in this building who are experts at making what we call “Happy” bags. These are just little gift bags from Dollar Tree filled to the brim with senior-friendly gadgets. I was the recipient of two of these bags after my hospital stay. Inside were gadgets, gizmos, and giggle makers. A string of battery-powered lights to hang wherever I want, and a flashlight with two settings, one regular and the other bright enough to guide Jimmy Durante straight to Mrs. Calabash, wherever she is. (Had to think about that one, huh?)
Maybe someone outside of your comfort zone could use a happy bag, phone call, or funny card in the mail. We made chemo bags and welcome bags for new residents, also glam bags for the ladies with nail polish, emery boards, popcorn, and a Dollar Tree movie. There is a group on Facebook called From the Heart where you can send cards to isolated seniors, and let us not forget about GETSETUP.com or Silver Sneakers online for fun stuff to do on your own or with a group.
We can ZOOM a group almost anywhere, and do not forget those seniors living in high-rise buildings. Life for them can be very different. Reach out to the managers; inquire about virtual gatherings. Exercise with a lonely senior. A friend in Chicago makes her exercise videos. She is nearly 80. Yet, she fights through bouts of shingles and shares what she knows about keeping her body healthy.
A friend in Louisiana just sent me a package with Crazy Socks (my favorite socks) and resources for my online ministry. More ways to share are through resources. Please share what you know; it may save someone else’s life or sanity. It is about sharing and caring. We may have a pandemic in common, but we should never feel alone!