Supporting our Elder Community: COVID-19 and the Fight Against Loneliness
September 14, 2020
This article was published by the National Center on Elder Abuse
“Our grandmother lives in a bustling retirement community and, before COVID-19, she had a thriving social life. She often had visitors over to her apartment, loved to go to the gym with her friends, and took the bus to the supermarket every week. Because of her compromised immune system, when COVID-19 arose in March, her doctor told her that she needed to self-isolate. So, she stopped leaving her apartment and began calling her friends rather than seeing them in person, and following yoga routines on YouTube. While she kept busy, it was clear that she was getting lonely. Our grandmother is not alone. Since seniors with COVID-19 have higher hospitalization and mortality rates, many have been asked to quarantine. This pandemic has led to an abrupt increase in older people, some of whom would normally have active social lives, feeling isolated. For seniors who are less active, the pandemic has cut them off from their friends and family, putting them at greater risk of elder abuse.
In April, our grandmother received a letter from her friend. We remember her showing us the letter on FaceTime and reading it out loud to us. Seeing her joy, we realized that there was something special about receiving a handwritten letter. It made her feel more connected and cared for in a way that a phone call couldn’t. We were also aware that many self-isolating older people do not have the same support system that our grandmother has. With these thoughts in mind, we decided to ask a few local nursing homes if we could write to their residents. It was clear that there was a need for something to help older people feel more connected because, within a week, 200 older people were eagerly waiting for their first letter. We wanted to write to all of them, but knew we couldn’t do it alone! So, we founded Letters Against Isolation and have been recruiting volunteers ever since.”