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Effects of social distancing on the elderly

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

One positive outcome from the Coronavirus pandemic (and there aren’t many) is that events we might not easily find ‘offline’ move online and become more visible to us. This was the case with a recent webinar organised by pan-European dementia researchers INTERDEM and the International Psychogeriatric Association, which took place on 20th May 2020. The event brought together international experts to share their knowledge on geriatric mental health, specifically the impact of social distancing on social health and social functioning of the elderly population. The 90-minute webinar along with additional video messages from other experts in the field was interesting and informative, even for the layman or woman. (You can still access the recordings on the link above).

These professionals underlined the importance (and challenges) of communication during times of isolation.

  • John Brennan, Vice-President of the International Federation of Social Workers’ European (IFSW-E) Executive, Ireland said that social workers were getting to grips with technology to make that communication possible – and that it helped to send positive and hopeful messages to isolated older people. But how can you get those messages to them? He was not alone in acknowledging that technology can be confusing for the elderly, and difficult to manage from a distance.

  • Prof. Dawne Garrett Professional Lead Care of Older People and Dementia Care at the Royal College of Nursing also mentioned this problem, especially difficult during COVID-19 restrictions.

  • From Prof. Myrra Vernooij-Dassen, chair of INTERDEM, we also learnt that frequency of conversation is an important factor in cognitive health – it’s not so much about ‘brain training’ but about regular and frequent social interactions.

FamilyNewsNow can help. Of course, it can’t replace face to face communication or better still, a hug! But it can support it, providing a prompt for conversation, a focus for discussion of memories, a means to share stories.

Listening to the webinar got us thinking … why not post some photographs and a message that you will call your loved one later that day – and then have a chat about the photos? It can help with conversation triggers …

And finally, the professional testimony also underlined for us a really helpful feature of FamilyNewsNow during COVID-19, which is the ‘Time since refresh’ monitoring in the ‘Family Display’ tab. It means that even when you are not there with your loved on, you have an indicator that the Display is working (and has not been accidentally unplugged or switched off!).

When they are isolated, and you can’t be there with them, you want reassurance as much as they do.

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