News stories today are full of articles on how to depend on family support systems for help during the pandemic.
These stories range from the serious “What to do with your children if you get sick” to the more mundane “How do I keep from killing my spouse as we try to share an office?”
But what about the older adults who have no spouse or nearby children? Dr. Sara Zeff Geber, an aging expert call them “solo agers.”
In a recent article for the website NextAvenue.org, Zeff Geber said solo agers are part of our communities. They live in suburban homes, metropolitan apartments, rural farmhouses and mobile home parks everywhere.
Most solo agers are active in their communities and interest groups, devoting their time and energy to civic and nonprofit organizations, food banks, book clubs, gyms and service organizations.
Under normal circumstances, these activities are a necessary and sufficient social outlet for solo agers.
Today, these same vibrant, active solo agers are confined to their homes — alone.
As a society, I think we have the responsibility of making sure all our members stay connected to the outside world and to one another.
If you are a solo ager, reach out to those same people you used to see on a regular basis before the shelter-in-place orders took effect.
Use email or the telephone as an initial contact point, then set up virtual face-to-face get-togethers on Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or whatever app you prefer.
If you are not a solo ager, I bet you know someone who is.
Reach out and connect to them.
If you are sheltering with family members, solo agers may be reluctant to reach out to you, thinking all your time and energy needs to be focused on those in your household.
That’s likely not the case at all, and you can reassure the solo agers in your life that they matter to you by connecting via video technology. Engage them on a regular basis as much as possible.
Going a step beyond those vital connections, what happens if you are a solo ager and you get sick during this pandemic and need help?
Under normal circumstances, when solo agers get sick, they typically call one of their close friends, tell them they need some help and the friend brings groceries or drives them to the doctor.
Obviously, that has to be modified during a pandemic. But it doesn’t mean you should abandon that buddy system. Moreover, if you are a solo ager and don’t have a current arrangement like that with a friend, this a good time to initiate one.
In our current situation, even while you are well, it’s important to check in with each other, at least several times a week, and ideally once a day.
Make sure you both have all the supplies (ibuprofen or acetaminophen, a thermometer, cough lozenges, etc.) you need to take care of yourself if you do get sick. These can be ordered and delivered to your door by most large pharmacy chains.
Make sure you each have sufficient food in the house, including soups and juices to help you stay hydrated. Build lists of these essentials together and review them often.
If one of you begins to have symptoms of COVID-19 and becomes frightened, step up the contact. Check in with each other several times a day. You should each know the other’s primary physician’s phone number and the number of the emergency room at each other’s nearest hospital.
If your friend begins having trouble breathing or starts running a fever of over 102 degrees, call 911 and send an ambulance to take them to the hospital. You won’t be going along, but you can ensure they are getting the help they need.