Human connection is essential to a person's growth, development, and happiness. It is especially important in older adults, who suffer from loneliness and social isolation more than any other age group.

Nearly one-third of the nation's aging population experience loneliness and/or social isolation, putting them at greater risk for serious physical and mental conditions. And since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has increased. Studies have suggested the mental and physical health in older adults has been negatively affected due to social distancing requirements of COVID-19, with mental and physical outcomes reported, including anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality and physical inactivity.

Earlier this year, John Blazek, Executive Director of Day Services at On Lok, participated in the Commonwealth Club’s “Reliving Social Isolation Among Seniors” event. Joining representatives from the Institute on Aging, Rhoda Goldman Plaza, and Ashby Plaza, the discussion highlighted how organizations are meeting the challenge of isolation in older adults during the pandemic and what more can and must be done to help our nation’s seniors.

On Lok has helped seniors safely shelter in place and stay connected during the pandemic. But now, more than ever, we must act with even greater compassion and kindness. Some helpful tips if you know a senior that may be suffering from social isolation during COVID-19:

  • Ask about their appetite, sleep patterns and moods. This can help identify red flags.

  • Find creative ways to connect, at a safe distance. Try a window visit–waves and smiles can be cathartic.

  • Arrange for a delivery from their favorite restaurant or order a few treats from the grocery store you know they will love.

  • Help set up video calls with friends or family.

  • Consider additional resources such as community resources, meal and nutrition programs, hotlines and telephone support, podcasts, eLibraries, arts and museums, and more!