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Older adults need to stay in touch to avoid loneliness during social distancing

Photo of elderly woman raising her hand in greeting in front of a computer. Photo by Getty Images.
Staying in touch with loved ones through video chats can help stave off loneliness for isolated older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Getty Images).

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the U.S., social distancing is now the byword for prevention. But for older adults who may already be experiencing loneliness, further isolation could be bad for their health.

“Loneliness can lead to depression, suppressing the immune system and compromising health in high-risk patients and especially older adults,” said Carmel B. Dyer, MD, executive director of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Consortium on Aging.

To help avoid loneliness, Dyer and experts at the consortium have tips on how older adults can feel less isolated during a time when social distancing is the best way to stay safe.

James Booker, PhD, administrative director of the Consortium on Aging, suggested older adults who want to enhance their knowledge of technology visit SeniorNet or U3A Online. Children, grandchildren, or friends can also be contacted for tech support.

  • Stay connected to family and friends using technology.
    • Make phone calls on a regular basis, or use video call technologies like FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, or Skype.
    • Make a list of family and friends to interact with daily.
    • Try things like a virtual breakfast, lunch, or dinner with family or friends.
  • Attend virtual religious services or meetings via TV or online.
    • Participate in religious studies or hold meetings, by phone, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Skype, or video conference.
  • Keep the mind and body active.
    • Write letters to reconnect with family and friends.
    • Exchange stories, photographs, and history.
    • Go for a walk or do gardening chores.
    • Attend a virtual exercise class. For its members, the Houston YMCA offers online classes. The National Institute on Aging also provides a free 15-minute at-home workout. Check out YouTube for more.
  • Participate in a remote/virtual book club.

Stay informed by following updates on the UTHealth COVID-19 resources pageHarris County Public HealthTexas Department of State Health ServicesCDC, and World Health Organization.

Media inquiries: (713) 500-3030 

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