Coping with Being Home Alone During the Pandemic

By Catherine Miller

It’s not just the very elderly — many people have found it difficult to remain isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

As a culture we have become accustomed to being fed mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually by our interactions with others, and each element is an important part of our lives.

Taking away our walks to the store, our dinners with friends and family and our religious events brings a wearying type of tedium to our days. Extended time alone can lead to depression and medical issues.

But there are ways to combat that.

Those that are over the age of 60 and live alone tend to have a more difficult time with isolation. While younger generations grew up with techno-social elements and could maintain socialization even while home alone, those over the age of 60 grew up with face-to-face interactions as part of their daily routine.

During the pandemic the youthful seniors — those just over 60 — are being warned that they are in a higher risk of infection, and their family members cannot visit them without exposing them to possible illness, yet they were healthy and want to maintain their lifestyles. Many of these seniors have developed ways to battle the seclusion.

“I learned long ago that the phone works both ways,” stated Rita Welker, a young, energetic senior whose life went from being very active, working full time and enjoying time with friends and family, to being isolated and alone nearly overnight.

“At first I kept in contact with phone calls and that went well, but pretty soon I began to feel useless, as if I was slipping down a hole,” the medical scribe from Niagara Falls, recalled.

For many young seniors that are accustomed to working and being socially engaged, being suddenly confined to their homes creates a huge void in their universe.

“I started a routine and kept active,” Welker said, “I would get up at my regular time each morning, get ready for the day and have tasks that I wanted to accomplish. I cleaned out closets, washed windows, and did projects that I had been wanting to complete.”

Welker said that she relaxed her structure occasionally, and then would get back into it the following day. Whenever possible she would take a walk, noting that exercise and sunshine were therapeutic. She read, exercised and got back into cooking, something she used to enjoy. Most importantly, she kept in touch with her family and friends, even joining her family at a virtual Easter table, via the internet. As Welker learned, having a routine, but doing something different each day helps to stimulate the mind and keeps the spirit fed.

Photo: Rita Welker of Niagara Falls on dealing with isolation: “At first I kept in contact with phone calls and that went well, but pretty soon I began to feel useless, as if I was slipping down a hole.”