Social distancing for the elderly during COVID-19

Social distancing is a term to describe efforts to maintain distance between people to prevent transmission of this virus.
This includes:

  • Reducing traveling outside the home
  • Avoid traveling to crowded places when there is no urgent need
  • Conducting study / school / work / worship activities at home. Use technology such as video calls and so on to support this.

If you really have to meet people / leave the house:

  • Make sure you are fit. If not fit and forced to leave the house, use a mask to prevent transmission to others
  • Keep a minimum distance of 2 meters from other people. This is a safe distance not to be exposed to the virus from coughing / sneezing other people
  • If you have to meet other people / gather, choose an open place or room with good circulation (open the window

This is highly recommended, even if you are not an elderly person! Why is that?
When you meet people who are infected with this virus, you run the risk of contracting it. If an infected person is in good health, it is possible that he or she only has mild symptoms (coughing / feeling lightheaded, still strong for activities). But then when they return home and meet elderly family members, it is very possible that they are infected and experience more severe symptoms and even more severe complications. This is because individuals aged 60 years and over, especially those who have reached the age of 80, are a group that is very vulnerable to the transmission of this virus.

Social distancing for the elderly
The elderly are more vulnerable groups infected with COVID-19, which means it is even more important for the elderly to do social distancing.
In social distancing efforts, the number of out-of-home activities and people visiting the home must be severely limited. In this modern era, young adults are certainly more familiar with technology so that they can utilize technology for activities at home without the need to travel. However, the elderly group that might not be as fluent as that using technology can feel a more extreme impact, starting from the emergence of feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. There are several things that need to be considered in conducting social distancing for the elderly so as not to cause feelings of loneliness in the elderly.

Older mentors and younger family members can take advantage of modern telecommunications modes such as video calls to help the elderly maintain communication with the outside world; other elderly friends, or relatives / family who usually come to visit the house.
Communication and social media applications such as Whatsapp, LINE, Skype, Facebook and others are very useful to help elderly people stay connected with family and friends who don’t live together. However, it should also be noted that the amount of news or hoaxes sent by people in various groups can make the elderly who are doing social distancing more stressful and anxious. How can we help the elderly to get the most out of technology without experiencing this anxiety?

Use communication applications and social media primarily to strengthen meaningful personal interactions during social distancing. Also pay attention to the schedule and duration of use of the device for this. Grandma would benefit more from half-hour video calls every morning and night with her grandchildren who usually visit the house, compared to reading all day in a group of 30 people who are exchanging news and messages that provoke anxiety. Invite family and other relatives to send a message to Grandma personally and ask for news and activities that day, without having to always discuss the corona virus outbreak.

Scheduled routine activities are also important to prevent anxiety and have no control over the situation. For the elderly who usually have social activities outside the home, surely they will be confused when they have to stay at home. Plan the daily schedule of family activities that stay at home during social distancing, from morning to night. Social interaction is very possible while maintaining physical distance. Humor and creativity will be very helpful in finding ways to move together.

During social distancing it is important to pay attention so that the elderly continue to have physical activities, even though they must be adapted to the situation. If you are accustomed to exercising with other elderly groups, you can replace it with a walk around the house accompanied by one person from the house, not doing rollicking and limiting interaction / talking with others.

dr. Tara P. Sani, MSc
dr. Saskia Mariska, MPH
Virginia Geraldine Hanny Prasetya, S. Psi


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