“Since we started the online programs in March, more people are learning that Zoom is not a bad thing and enjoying the online classes,” Abrams said of the 50 - 97 current members of the center. “Many of them are continuing to attend online Zoom classes or come to outside venue programs. I have communication with them at the beginning of classes, through email and weekly text check-ins and the seniors that were coming for the Monroe County Area of Aging Senior Center are being called by Tanya Lutin, who is the senior manager of the Barrett center.”
In lieu of a holiday party, Abrams and her staff will be spreading cheer by mail.
“We we will be sending extra email communications, which include some fun videos, puzzles and facts to our members. Simply keeping contact and letting them know we are here for them,” Abrams said. “Usually we give the gifts out at a holiday party, but this year they will be mailed or delivered by Tanya and myself.”
The Jewish Resource Center in Stroudsburg has also turned to Zoom as a means of keeping in touch with its members.
Some of the classes listed on the website include a lunch and learn class with Rabbi Yehuda (noon on Wednesdays) and a lunch and schmooze for residents over the age of 60 (noon on Thursdays).
“Thank God we have the technology and still have access to see and talk to our loved ones,” Ana Velez, a licensed clinical social worker based in Gilbert, said.
At her West End practice, a high percentage of her clients are over the age of 55, an age group more at risk from developing severe medical complications from COVID-19.
While most know how to use video conferencing, she occasionally has to get the family involved.
“I will call some of the family members and explain to them, this is what’s happening to your mother or your aunt, could you please go to her house (and safely) help them set up Zoom or teach them. That way, they can celebrate together.”
Some fun activities to do online with your family include drawing, playing games (bingo, cards) sharing recipes, reading, and chatting about fond memories from holidays past.
For seniors living in assisted living facilities or centers, Velez suggests asking the staff to facilitate the supplies needed for the video call, such as paper for drawing and markers, and assistance scheduling and setting up a Zoom call.
Grandparents, regardless of their age and living situations, are especially feeling sad and left out this holiday season, Velez says.
“Most grandparents are not allowed to visit their grandchildren because of COVID. And they want to embrace and hug their grandchildren, but they can’t travel or see them. One grandmother I know is not allowed to see her two grandchildren because the children are medically compromised. Her son says she has to get a COVID test first,” she said.
Turning to faith
Velez suggests reaching out to your local church to see if they are offering online services. Holiday music combined with prayer can really lift the spirits.
“Some of them are videotaping and sending them to their congregation and members of their church,” she said.
Or, for example, you can ask your family to recite some of your beloved holiday scriptures from the Bible.
“I have heard some family members are gathering together and doing their own services online,” she said.
Reaching out to loved ones
Velez fears that many seniors will experience social isolation, especially during the winter months.
“This will be a very sad holiday season because the holidays bring the family together and I think that depression will increase, along with feelings of loneliness and desperation,” she said.
Abrams says it’s vital to check-in on your friends and family.
“The most important thing anyone can do is to reach out, communicate, call your mom, neighbor, uncle — wave to people as you go, be kind,” she said. “Communication is really important at this time.”