What COVID-19 Taught — or Reminded — Us About Isolation

Kelly Andress, Founder and President of SageLifeKelly Andress, Founder and President of SageLife
By Kelly Andress, Founder and President of SageLife (SageLife senior living communities include Daylesford Crossing in Paoli, Pa., and Echo Lake in Malvern, Pa.)

This past year has been one grand experiment in isolation. We have all been forced to fight the negative feelings that isolation brings but, in many cases and for many reasons, it’s what we’ve come to expect for seniors.

Since March 2020, our eyes have been opened to what many seniors already know too well – a sedentary life is unhealthy and boring, simple acts of touch such as shaking hands and hugs are taken for granted, and a lack of personal freedom is frustrating or worse.

Unfortunately, many seniors aging at home experienced this long before the pandemic started. What can we learn as light peeps through at the end of this arduous tunnel?

Life after the pandemic will not be the same as life during months of quarantine and social distancing.

During the coronavirus quarantine, some seniors moved in with their children and were surrounded by grandkids and bustling home lives. When everyone is isolating from the outside world, home can be in an ideal setting for seniors – but is that environment realistic post-pandemic?

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Also during this time, many adult children became more involved in mom and dad’s home healthcare. As a result, they began to question whether that type of care is truly meeting their parents’ needs.

Quarantine will soon be a thing of the past; travel will pick up and staying home will not be required. What is the best living arrangement for the seniors moving forward? 

Technology is not lost on seniors when it’s the only way to communicate with friends and family.

One positive outcome of this situation is we’ve eliminated the “mom and dad don’t understand technology” excuse when it comes to our residents.

During the height of COVID, we had residents texting and Facetiming because they missed each other. By overcoming perceived barriers to technology, residents continue to take Zoom yoga classes, attend virtual church services and tour museums around the world.

Throughout the past year, it didn’t take long for many adult children to wonder if mom or dad could even fit them into their schedules.

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Seniors, like you, are not OK with isolation.

Sometimes, we’ve noted, society regards seniors as having different, even diminished, feelings and needs regarding their social lives. Those who reside in senior communities know that living among friends gives their day-to-day lives greater meaning and purpose.

Connecting with people of one’s own generation brings a comfortable sense of familiarity. I’ve witnessed two widows bond over discussions about their dads and daughters, and how those relationships impacted their lives in unique ways. I’ve seen high school classmates reunited, and budding artists encourage each together to transform a canvas.

The bottom line is being understood by the people around you brings fulfillment and fun, which are universally desired throughout life and even more so as we age. In our senior years, we often have an abundance of what we’ve longed for our whole adult lives – time. How we use that time and the people we spend it with ultimately determines our level of satisfaction and happiness.

The right home at the right time – new relationships are often the biggest gifts of a senior living lifestyle.

It is common and perfectly understandable that seniors feel attached to their long-time family homes. But the right home changes over the course of a life. As we return to normalcy after this pandemic, a senior living community — and how it fosters connection and staves off isolation — is something to consider.

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The value of spending time with peers and its impact on wellness and life is now clearer at all ages. We want to break bread together, sing at karaoke night together, see our friends regularly, share different points of view and appreciate the value of diversity.

Post-pandemic, the world is opening up for all of us, not just young people.

Seniors should kick the door down.

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