Loneliness is probably one of the worst effects of the social distancing that’s now necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many older adults were already feeling lonely before the mandated lockdowns. And they are more likely to suffer the worst effects of the disease, making social distancing all the more important to their physical health. We’ve talked quite a bit lately about the many ways that you can connect digitally with friends and family. Social media platforms, video calling, and virtual classes can all help people feel connected and less isolated.
However, you do have to know how to use these technologies in order to connect. While younger people, sometimes called “digital natives,” can feel very comfortable in the digital world, older people often do not. At the same time, the drive to see and interact with others is a big motivator to overcome the challenges of digital platforms.
The good news is that there are lots of resources to help you out. If you’re reading this, you already know how to access email and blogs. Build on the skills you’re comfortable with. If you have questions about how to get on Zoom, you can do a search for something like “how to use Zoom.” You will get lots of options. Some people prefer to watch a video, while others like articles. Either way, you will be able to see where the commands are and how to join a meeting for a class or to keep in touch with family.
The same goes for social media platforms. There are plenty of easy-to-use how-to guides. While you’re searching, be sure to look up how to keep your privacy secure on the sites. Tech-savvy family or friends can also tell you about the best methods to stay secure online.
Speaking of family, for many people, it feels less intimidating to have someone they know walk them through setting up video calling or a social media profile. It can be challenging to do this over the phone, but if both people are patient and dedicated, you can make it work. If you have a family member who is willing to help, you can also ask them to direct you to a clear article or video online. Or ask if they are willing to make a tutorial for you and email it.
If you already have the basics of Zoom and video calling, it’s easier for you to find out more about using digital tools. You can access classes and meetings offered over Zoom or another video platform. Many community colleges and libraries offer courses and workshops virtually. You can also easily access other digital learning tools. Libraries offer language learning apps, for instance. They also have databases with courses on professional skills, art lessons, and fascinating lectures. You can learn quite a bit about local history with online databases of photography.
Learning digital tools isn’t only good for staying in touch or building new skills. Figuring out how to get groceries delivered using an app or a store’s website can be a huge help. You don’t have to go out and risk COVID exposure. It is also a great time-saver. Some people find they save money, too, since they are less tempted by impulse-buys.
Another important reason to become familiar with digital tools is so that you can use telehealth platforms to go to medical appointments. In addition, many municipalities are using websites to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations. Even if you’re not interested in using Zoom or social media or grocery delivery, this is vital. You can search for your city or county, plus “schedule a covid-19 vaccine” to find the site that’s right for you. You may also be able to find a phone number to call to set up an appointment.
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