Not only will your gesture ensure that your loved one has enough opportunities to live well, but they’ll appreciate that you’re thinking of them – which can be very encouraging to someone who is protected or struggling with social distancing. If you want to bake for your grandparents, parents or even friends, BBC Good Food has some great recipes.

I made sure my grandparents got fresh air.

Even if your loved one can’t take a leisurely or daily walk, it’s still important for them to get fresh air. Research has repeatedly shown that fresh air increases the amount of oxygen flow to the brain, which improves cognitive function and helps the brain heal. Encourage your elderly loved one to open all their windows for at least 5 minutes a day (make sure they are warmed up first!)

Fortunately, my grandparents love their daily walks and living near the forest, of course, they are not short of options. But others were not so lucky. In more urban areas, walks can be quite limited and due to the larger population, they are usually crowded and social distancing is difficult to maintain. As the government still advises us to stay local, many may feel bored or uncomfortable walking around in crowded places.

If so, try to plan an early morning or late evening hike with them, especially now that we’ve moved into spring and the days are starting to get longer. Offer to accompany them if they are nervous – just remember to maintain social distance.

I make social interaction a daily occurrence.

As we use technology to stay in touch, younger generations are used to being in constant communication with each other. Your senior may not have the technological capabilities to use video calling capabilities or even text, so unless your parent is being cared for, there may be days or weeks without speaking to another person. Loneliness is a silent killer, so you’ll need to take extra steps to ensure your parent gets enough social contact. Call them every day, make it a habit to sit down and talk at the same time each with a cup of tea. It will be the highlight of their day. Go one step further and encourage other family members to do the same.

If you’re struggling to think of things to talk about with so little going on in our lives right now, try mixing it up with weekly virtual games. My family and I took turns taking quizzes via Facebook Messenger during each lockdown, with a new topic emerging each week. We announce the topic at the beginning of the week so that everyone has a chance to review the topic if they don’t know much about it. It can also be a good way to give your elderly parents something to do during the week, as they can read about a topic and then plan a quiz when it’s their turn.

You can run out of theme ideas pretty quickly, so here are a few unusual ideas my family and I did:

  • Your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. find photos of them from their younger years (eg school pictures, teenage years) and have young family members guess who is who.

  • Play the intro to the song and everyone has to guess what it is before the singer starts.

  • Try school subjects like History, English, Biology, find old exam papers from a year ago and see if anyone can get the answers right.

  • Recipes – take traditional/popular recipes of your favorite dishes, read the ingredients and see if anyone can guess what the recipe is for.

If quizzing isn’t your thing, you can also try a virtual PowerPoint night (make a PowerPoint on the most random topic you can think of) or games that can be played over video calls.

I always try to keep my grandparents busy.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and your loved one may struggle to keep their spirits up during the long, dark winter nights. Make sure they have plenty of activities to keep them busy – send them any other hobbies, puzzle books, knitting supplies, CDs, books that can keep their mind focused and their hands occupied.

My sister and I recently bought our grandparents color by number kits and they are very happy with them. We were told that they spend their afternoons listening to music and taking pictures while sipping cups of tea! Activities like these allow them to be creative, and they can remember when they did these activities when they were younger.

Most importantly, I try to be confident.

This can be a scary and lonely time for seniors. Remind them often that better days are ahead and that vaccines now offer us a very real end goal. Make future plans for when you can see each other again—visiting their favorite restaurant, going on vacations, having barbecues, birthday parties, and Christmases together. Having something to look forward to will reassure them that this is a temporary situation.

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