Preventing Social Isolation in Adults
in the Age of COVID-19

As the world shuts down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, people are hunkering down in their homes. And for many that means increased loneliness, which could lead to depression.

And, older adults are particularly vulnerable. Not only are those over 65 most at risk for serious complications from COVID-19, but as they stay home, they are at risk of becoming socially isolated. Asked to stay away from family and friends, they must find ways to remain connected to the outside world.

According to Tiffany Nicolette, Vice President, Aging in Community for CHAI, there is also the concern that social isolation from the coronavirus could have lasting effects.

Recent research indicates that social isolation has the same negative health effects as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. “It is crucial for us provide alternative ways for our older adults to connect with one another and maintain their friendships,” says Nicolette.

CHAI, which has been on the cutting edge of older adult programming – they are one of the first in Maryland to implement the village concept — believes its latest pilot program with the AARP Foundation may bring immeasurable benefits, particularly now.

Listen to Emily Allen, Senior Vice President of Programming from the AARP Foundation talk about how voice technology is tackling senior isolation and the success of the pilot program in The Associated’s “Pull Up a Chair.” She is joined by Al Welch and Shirley Crowder, residents of Weinberg Village and Weinberg Place, respectively who talk about how the Alexa has made a major difference in their lives. This podcast was recorded prior to the COVID-19 crisis; however the program is more relevant than ever in combating social isolation.

 Want more Pull Up A Chair? Visit our podcast page!

The project, which provides Alexa voice technology to older adults living in Weinberg Villages, Weinberg Place and Weinberg Woods, has taught older adults to use voice technology to help them find information, surf the web, listen to music and more.

It has become like a friend, say many residents who have adopted the technology. Some use Alexa as a game partner, playing trivia and other activities with the voice technology. Others, like Shirley Crowder, resident of Weinberg Place, adds that she even uses it to call up her phone contacts – especially helpful in helping her keep in touch with the outside world.

In addition, CHAI, which owns 15 affordable senior living communities, is looking out for the older adults in its buildings. With activities cancelled – and the Myerberg Center closed — they have organized and encouraged friendly check-ins. Service Coordinators at each building are calling residents, making sure they have access to groceries and other resources – and making sure they are not alone.

At the same time, CHAI’s Northwest Neighbors Connecting, a village of interdependent individuals who give and receive volunteer services, and participate in social and cultural events with like-minded older adults, is also working together. Friends who are part of volunteer circles centered around group interests – eating together, playing Bingo together and more – are now making friendly check-in calls, communicating with one another.

“If this lasts an extended period of time, it may be harder for individuals to get back to their original routine of socializing. They might now be afraid to go out, worried they might get sick,” says Nicolette.

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