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Isolation a growing problem during pandemic

At this time, we are challenged in so many ways.

We need to be able to shop and get the things we need to stay healthy – food, and cleaning items. We need to exercise and move our bodies to combat soreness and weight gain from our limitations in moving about with this pandemic.

We also need to be connected. For many, we are just starting to really feel the effects on our mental health and wellness with the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Help is available for food insecurity; we can still get out in nature and our neighborhoods to walk and take in the season and fresh air however really feeling connected to others is more of a challenge. According to the Eldercare Locator web pages: “Americans of all ages to adjust to lives with fewer in-person social connections than ever before. Unaddressed, this social isolation can lead to loneliness and can impact our physical and mental health. This is particularly true for older adults who are more likely to live alone and whose social circles may be smaller in number or limited by access to technology.”

It seems so easy, but it really can be hard for anyone that is isolated at home, working alone from home, to keep in touch.

I know, I feel it myself as do others I have talked with. What can we do to stop this isolation? First – recognize it.

There are resources to help really identify what you are experiencing. Sounds like you should know- but many times we tell ourselves, “I got this, I’m OK, it will pass.” If you are having difficulty with sleeplessness, your appetite is changed, your feeling anxious and nervous more often than before-these are all indications that the pandemic may be affecting your mental wellness.

The problem: Having few or infrequent social contacts is known as social isolation.

Those who experience social isolation may also feel loneliness, which occurs when the difference between the level of social connections we desire is higher than the social connections we experience. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 24 percent of older adults were experiencing social isolation and 43 percent reported feelings of loneliness.

Researchers predict that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in older adults feeling the mental and physical health effects of social isolation and loneliness in greater numbers than other age groups, in part because medical guidance advises older adults to embrace physical distancing practices at higher rates.

There is a short questionnaire called the UCLA 3 loneliness scale that may help you decide that you may be really suffering from isolation. It asks three questions that you answer as Often, some of the time or hardly ever. Here are the questions:

1.How often do you feel that you lack companionship?

2. How often do you feel left out?

3.How often do you feel isolated from others?

If you can honestly answer “some of the time” or “often”— it may be time to do something and plan to take steps to improve this. It does not matter your age or situation- it affects all of us. The key is recognizing it, being truthful to ourselves that it is affecting us and do something about it. Take charge and see what may help you connect and stay connected! The Eldercare locator notes, “In response to COVID-19, community-based organizations around the country swiftly developed programs to provide a variety of ways to help older adults stay connected to others in their communities. Whether by moving an exercise class online or creating new activities to build connections, local organizations in your community are likely offering new interactive options for activities that had taken place in person prior to COVID-19.” Here are a few ideas that may be easy to do on your own

Reach out to others, talk about how you feel, and you may find they feel the same way. Decide to check in by phone or video chat with this friend or family member.

Get up and get moving! Channel 5 cable offers Tai Chi and there are many resources for free classes on TV and the internet. Sing and dance!

Check out Senior Planet. Check out the “Stuck at Home Guide: How to Get Online. It contains helpful tips for getting started online, on social media and on Zoom meetings. Visit www.seniorplanet.org/stuck-at-home-guide-get-online

Get creative. Try your hand at art, crafts, or cooking-express yourself!

Try contacting the Institute on Aging’s Friendship Line at (800) 971-0016 or the AARP Friendly Voice call line, (888) 281-0145 (English) or (888) 497-4108 (Spanish), to speak with trained volunteers who can lend a friendly ear to those in need of social connections.

NY Connects is your trusted place to go for free, unbiased information and assistance. We can help you link to programs, classes, services, and supports. There is also care for social isolation, anxiety, loneliness, and other challenges in being alone. If social isolation and loneliness are making a mental health or substance abuse issue worse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration operates a national helpline. Call (800) 662-HELP (4357) to connect with a trained counselor.

NY Connects serves older individuals and individuals with disabilities of all ages. We can help you; families, caregivers, and professionals find community help. When people find us or get a chance to hear what we can help with – they always say, “I wish I had known this before”.

How to use the NY Connects? Call us at 716-753-4582, 716-363-4582, or 716-661-7582. Our e-mail is CCNYC@co.chautauqua.ny.us. The NY Connects Resource Directory www.nyconnects.ny.gov We can help- that is what we do – for you.

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