Stress negatively affects immunity, so during the COVID-19 crisis, it is especially important to find ways to help seniors reduce their stress levels. Retirement communities and assisted living facilities that have been lucky enough not to experience outbreaks must maintain strict social distancing and associated sanitizing practices to guard against the virus. Seniors are in the eye of the coronavirus storm, and those who care for them are understandably concerned about how seniors can reduce stress during this frightening time.
Maintain a Sense of Community
Loneliness and isolation are serious problems for seniors, and the requirements to stay away from others to guard against coronavirus can make these worse. Although friends and loved ones who don’t already live in the same home cannot safely visit seniors, they can still maintain contact with regular phone calls or video chats. Most seniors are more technologically savvy than others think and are perfectly capable of participating in video chats. Many seniors maintain Facebook accounts, so send a friend request or post a message of encouragement to them.
Mindfulness or meditation practices can help reduce stress. These practices emphasize deep breathing and clearing the mind of little worries. There are apps for mobile phones and many online sites that provide guided mindfulness or meditation exercises that help reduce stress. Yoga, tai chi, or even brain teasers and jigsaw puzzles can help distract seniors from stressful worries.
Many people turn to junk food and sugary snacks in times of stress. Seniors should resist the temptation to indulge in foods that negatively affect energy, increase blood sugar levels, and cause weight gain. Nutrient-dense foods offer a better chance of staying healthy overall and reducing stress. Reducing simple carbohydrates and increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, fish, and limited portions of nuts can help combat the effects of stress on the body. Constant stress triggers the “fight or flight” response, which is useful in times of true danger, but damaging if present constantly.
Healthy seniors benefit from regular exercise, even if they have to do it seated at home. Direct seniors to resources for safe home exercise routines. Seniors with balance issues or limited mobility must be extra careful, especially if they live alone, to avoid falls or other injuries. But those who are physically able can still safely go for a walk while social distancing.
Seniors are under stress from loneliness, isolation, and now, the threat of coronavirus. Keep in touch via phone or online to check on seniors frequently. Set up appropriate interventions, like contact-free food or grocery delivery. Make sure seniors understand the requirements of social distancing and how seniors can reduce stress. Even when the rate of new infections has slowed significantly, we will all benefit by continuing to observe these good habits we practiced during this pandemic, like frequent handwashing and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces.