Staying Socially Connected

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Staying Socially Connected

September 17, 2020
Social engagement is an important part of the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). While the delivery of this service has changed during COVID-19, InnovAge has successfully continued to provide social support to PACE seniors through other means.
 
James Sawyer, InnovAge executive director at the InnovAge PACE center in Richmond, Va. recently served as a panelist at a virtual event hosted by the Virginia Governor's Conference of Aging. On their webinar, “Social Isolation in Community Based Services,” James presented examples of what InnovAge is doing to avoid social isolation and loneliness in InnovAge PACE seniors.
 
If you are the caregiver for an older loved one but don’t live with them or nearby, here are some tips James suggests to keep them engaged:
 
Virtual Tools
Virtual tools throughout the community are available and ready to help seniors experiencing loneliness. Such resources help seniors connect with others throughout the community. AARP is a resource that gives seniors access to virtual tools such as Connect2Affect.orgExperience Corps, and Community Connection Tools. (Please remember not everyone has access to a device with which to access these tools.)
 
Technology 
Zoom, GrandPads, traditional tablets, and smartphones can help older adults stay connected with their loved ones. “We often think seniors don't have the ability to use such technology,” says James. But according to research, seniors are now more digitally connected than they ever have been. In fact, their smartphone and tablet use jumped higher than of any other age group within the last decade.
 
Social Media
Social media is a great way for older adults to stay connected while still at home. James explains, “One of our seniors was experiencing loneliness and moments of depression. What we found was the person was socially isolated. We helped her to set up a Facebook profile that allowed her to connect with a friend she hadn’t been in contact with for over 50 years.”
 
Although centers are currently closed, InnovAge is still enrolling and still engaging seniors. InnovAge’s team-based care now includes telehealth calls, regular wellness checks, and in-person visits as medically necessary. “Despite the pandemic, we continue to meet all of the medical needs of our participants,” says James.
 
Additionally, InnovAge participants have access to staff chaplains and regularly receive activity kits and care packages from their local care team.
 
What tools have you used to stay connected with your loved ones throughout the pandemic? Join the conversation on Facebook.
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