Forming and Maintaining Connections While Physically Distancing

By Grace DeRose-Wilson, Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan

Did you know, “Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day?” This report by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) highlights the importance of maintaining social relationships and staying connected with your friends and family. In January 2020, prior to much of the U.S. implementing social distancing, National Public Radio (NPR) reported “More than 3 in 5 Americans are lonely.” Even as lock-downs end and states start to open businesses and workplaces, scientists and health officials are warning that COVID-19 cases could increase again leading to more lock-downs. So, how can you maintain social connections while minimizing health risks?

Former United States surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy said, “Helping another person can be an incredibly powerful experience that not only forms a connection between people but also reaffirms to ourselves that we’re bringing value to the world.” He emphasizes that the coronavirus crisis has caused many people to struggle and you can help each other and yourself by reaching out to your friends and neighbors to ask what they need help with.

On AARP’s April 9th, Coronavirus Tele-Town Hall, Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen says tuning in to how we are feeling “is equally as important as washing our hands and maintaining physical distance.” Many of us connect through sharing. Last year you may have been sharing a meal, camping trip, or movie with your loved ones. Now those activities are all more challenging to physically share, but it is still important to find ways to share with your loved ones. Dr. Van Dahlen says it is just as important for a loved one to hear how you are doing as it is for you to share your feelings with them. It is easier to feel connected when you give and receive support from others.

According to Dr. Sullivan at the Cleveland Clinic, older adults and children are two groups that regular check-ins could really help. If you’re feeling isolated, try reaching out to the oldest and youngest members of your family. Sometimes a quick phone call can make someone’s day! Check out The Unlonely Project for more resources to connect with others.

Grace DeRose-Wilson is a Screening Integration Coordinator for MiCAFE at Elder Law of Michigan and has been a member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since November 2018. As a Screening Integration Coordinator, Grace helps Michigan seniors navigate the benefits application process, and helps raise awareness of benefits through community outreach events.