When seniors live in independent living or assisted living, they cannot always visit with their families and loved ones face-to-face. Other conditions, like staying indoors due to COVID-19, can cause fewer social opportunities, as well. The lack of interaction can lead to loneliness. That’s why it’s important to find ways to connect over distances. A great way to do that is via video conference, using applications like Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime or Zoom. All of these platforms offer a free version and require nothing but a computer with a camera and internet access. You can do much more than just talking over video. Here are some ideas for fun video-based activities that seniors can engage in with their friends or families.
Depending on the age and interests of the participants, you’ll have to come up with a book that everyone likes and can access. If there are kids in the family, adults often find that children’s books make for a fun, relaxing read. Find books at a library, through mail order, or as e-books. Then, plan ahead to read the book by a certain day, and “meet” via video to discuss what you thought.
There are several ways to sync your movie-viewing experience with people who are distant. The simplest way is to choose a movie that’s already airing on network TV or cable and log into your video app just before it starts. If shared spaces are off limits, such as due to social distancing, you can still make due streaming on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Of course, streaming services provide a much wider variety of options and you can watch at any time that’s convenient for everyone. To take things to the next technological level, check out Netflix Party. You can watch movies or TV shows at the exact same time and even pause if anyone needs a restroom break.
Playing a board game together over video requires a little ingenuity. The best—though not only—way is for both parties to have the game physically in front of them. Battleship is made for this—it’s impossible to cheat! For games where you move pieces around a board, you will need to both move your own and the other party’s pieces. Or, if only one of you has the game, you could rig a camera above the board so everyone can see what’s going on. This can be a great project for tech-savvy kids. If that all sounds too complicated, you can simply look for fun trivia questions on the internet and take turns asking each other questions. It’s up to you if you want to keep score or just enjoy the back-and-forth. Mahjong is another favorite activity among residents of senior housing communities (especially here at Aviva). Mahjong can be played online, with friends sharing their videos at the same time.
If your loved ones aren’t around to dine in the community kitchen, usually one of many amenities senior living has to offer, you can always cook together. Sharing recipes is an age-old tradition that bonds a family across generations. If your family has a favorite traditional meal, choose that. Or experiment and create a new tradition. Kids or those with less cooking experience often learn a lot from their grandparents or older relatives. Set up your laptop, tablet or phones so you can see each other’s countertops, and get cooking.
The COVID-19 quarantine popularized virtual events. Everything from concerts to lectures to animal encounters at the zoo went streaming. The trend may continue for a long time to come, as many people really enjoy them. Suddenly, you can attend an event with a loved one who doesn’t even live in the same state. Some virtual events provide a way for attendees to “chat” live along the way. Otherwise, you can compare notes afterward.
As with other activities, you can approach this one from a low-tech or high-tech angle. A grandparent can tell a grandchild all about their family members, showing photos or mementos, while the child draws the tree. On the other hand, a younger family member reciting stories of family history with a senior with memory loss can help improve their mood and celebrate their history. This sharing of stories and facts will create lasting memories for both. You can also try Ancestry.com, a website that lets you build family trees with access to millions of electronic records like censuses, burial records and more. Although only one person can log into an account at a time, the platform lets users share their family trees. Both people can add to it and check out each other’s findings.
The reliance on technology to communicate gives some seniors pause. They spent most of their lives without the internet and never even imagined watching a movie at home any time they wanted. Seniors should know it’s okay to take things slow, and if they try using technology they may be surprised at how easy it is. Younger generations should be patient and remember that trying something new can feel intimidating. Ultimately, however, it can enable valuable family togetherness. If you or a loved one lives in a senior community, take the plunge and get creative with how you connect. Nurturing family connections makes senior living that much sweeter.
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