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Social Distancing Doesn't Mean Social Disconnecting

AARP Ohio volunteers are making friendly phone calls to fellow Ohioans who might feel isolated. (Adobe Stock)
AARP Ohio volunteers are making friendly phone calls to fellow Ohioans who might feel isolated. (Adobe Stock)
March 26, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Feeling cut off from the outside world can be depressing and lonely, especially for older Ohioans, but social distancing doesn't have to mean social disconnecting.

With Ohio under a stay-at-home order and senior centers closed, AARP Ohio State Director Holly Holtzen recommends making a plan to stay connected with loved ones.

This might mean setting up daily communication online through FaceTime, Google Home, Skype, or with a phone call or text.

Holtzen says there are many resources online to keep people both physically and mentally engaged.

"There are things that don't require you getting out of the house -- whether its exercise, or online learnings and podcasts, which you could do on your cell phone," she points out. "Even museums and libraries have virtual tours."

During the pandemic, Holtzen also suggests checking in on older neighbors who might be isolated, and sending cards, letters, magazines or other items to loved ones at assisted living facilities.

At AARP.org, there's an online learning platform with free courses and trivia, and a Get Moving series of exercise videos.

The organization also just launched AARP Community Connections, an online tool that connects folks who would like to have a periodic friendly phone call from one of its volunteers, like Millie Sretenovic, an AARP volunteer in northeast Ohio. She says the volunteers understand the importance of staying in touch with friends and family.

"Being part of the volunteer community, I'm just so grateful," she states. "I get emails, I get texts, I get phone calls, 'How are you doing Millie? Do you need anything?' And I've been doing the same for some of the other volunteers."

Holtzen adds it's also important during the pandemic to protect yourself and loved ones from scammers who are trying to taking advantage of the crisis.

"Be wary of people pushing products that promise to cure COVID-19," she warns. "Also be suspicious of some people asking for donations. Have them send the information by mail, and defer that decision until you have a chance to research that particular organization."

Holtzen adds about 11,000 AARP volunteers nationwide work on a regular basis on programs to keep older adults engaged, through social and educational activities. Find out how to get involved by emailing ohvolunteers@aarp.org.

Disclosure: AARP Ohio contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH