Wellness During COVID-19

COVID-19: Keeping seniors engaged during social distancing

Senior man having fun listening to music on digital tablet

Comforting routines and fun activities help our seniors stay upbeat 

For many seniors, visits from family and friends brighten their days and keep them feeling connected. Yet our residents’ health and safety are also important. That's why we've closed our retirement communities to outside visitors.

Our residents’ happiness and mental health are vital. Knowing that, we bring them many of the same comforting activities they’ve always enjoyed, but with a twist or two. With out-of-the-box thinking, we’re able to keep them busy and socially connected in new ways. 

“Isolation takes a toll on seniors’ minds and bodies,” says Gregg Shivers, M.D., geriatric medicine specialist with Riverside Health System. “So, we’re taking steps to build or maintain their social networks inside our walls. We’re also doing our best to keep residents in touch with friends and loved ones in the outside world.”

Connecting residents with family and friends

Here are just a few ways Riverside senior communities are helping residents stay in touch with loved ones. 

  • Harnessing the tech. Residents are being trained to use iPads and taught how to use Skype and FaceTime so they can see their family and friends.
  • Calling loved ones daily. A staff leader is assigned to each resident. The leader calls the family every day or on the family’s desired schedule 
  • Giving phone “lessons".Not all residents know how to use all the features on their cellphones. We’re showing them how to use FaceTime, texting and email apps.
  • Going the extra mile. We’re there for our residents who need to reach out to those they love. For instance, one of our activity assistants came to work extra early to help a resident video chat with her grandson, who is in Afghanistan. 
  • Keeping in touch through TV. Some of our locations are able to use their in-house TV systems to share updates. They share information about the weather and the day’s activities.
  • Sharing emails. Our staff members receive emails from family and friends on behalf of residents who don’t have computers. Then they take the emails to residents.

Connecting residents with each other 

“Although we always keep social distancing to at least 6 feet, our teams have found creative ways for residents to enjoy a social life,” says Dr. Shivers.

Here are some of the ways they’re staying active and engaged.

“Special deliveries” we offer residents include

  • Coloring supplies
  • Word puzzles
  • Jigsaw puzzles (one user only)
  • Magazines and books 
  • Warm cookies or milkshakes (big favorites!)

Fun and games include:

  • “Hallway bingo” where residents play the game in their open doorways
  • Dance parties in the doorways — with music provided by a staff cellphone
  • Hallway karaoke and disposable card games 
  • Brief outdoor walks using social distancing
  • Exercise sessions at safe distances and without equipment 

The major changes brought on by COVID-19 are testing the connections our residents have with loved ones. But our teams are ready and willing to bridge those gaps. Our goal is to help every resident come through this time feeling healthy, cared about and engaged. 

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