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Aline Mor­ris, 80, used to be a world trav­el­er, start­ing to seri­ous­ly trav­el when she was 60 but she stopped trav­el­ing by her­self a cou­ple of years ago.  She has fond mem­o­ries of see­ing the world whether on tours, cruis­es or buses. 

 

Photo by Dima Fedorov on Unsplash

Pho­to by Dima Fedorov on Unsplash

 

“I love the riv­er cruis­es in Europe,” Mor­ris said.  “I loved the quaint­ness of Europe and loved get­ting off the boat to walk into a town.” For Mor­ris, stay­ing active used to mean vis­it­ing with fam­i­ly, friends and neigh­bors.  She is tak­ing the stay-at-home order to heart and is try­ing to find ways to keep busy with­out leav­ing her home.

 

Alina Morris and her three great-grandkids

Aline Mor­ris and her three great-grandkids

 

While deal­ing with the COVID-19 virus has stoked fear and unprece­dent­ed con­tain­ment mea­sures, includ­ing stay-at-home advi­sories in many states, the elder­ly, an already vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion, can be more at risk from the unin­tend­ed con­se­quences of these safe­ty measures.

“Depres­sion is a major issue for the elder­ly because some are lim­it­ed because they are not able to do things,” Licensed Pro­fes­sion­al Coun­selor Diana Mitchell of Andrews Uni­ver­si­ty in Berrien Springs, MI said. “This pan­dem­ic (is putting) a men­tal health strain on the aver­age per­son. Imag­ine a per­son with no out­side connection.”

 

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Pho­to by Nick Kar­vou­nis on Unsplash

 

Mitchell said it is impor­tant for every­one, espe­cial­ly the elder­ly, to have fre­quent con­tact with oth­ers and in these times that means using a cell phone to call or text, send­ing an email or actu­al­ly tak­ing the time to hand­write a let­ter to send in the mail. “Humans are meant to have social inter­ac­tion and it’s espe­cial­ly impor­tant for those that live alone with no spouse and no chil­dren,” Mitchell said. “Just make them feel like they are not alone even though they are shut in.”

 

Photo by Gervyn Louis on Unsplash

Pho­to by Gervyn Louis on Unsplash

 

 

“Like every­body else, I’m feel­ing very unnerved,” Mor­ris said.  “I’m unable to focus on what I’m doing and am actu­al­ly para­noid about the whole thing.” She said when she starts to get real­ly uptight, she turns on her old ball­room dance music, some­thing she recent­ly redis­cov­ered since being at home.

 

“It makes my body want to move and takes me to anoth­er place,” said Morris. 

 

She has also made it a point to stay faith­ful to her phys­i­cal ther­a­py exer­cis­es for her back and also spends time doing yoga (hold­ing onto a chair in case she waivers) and exer­cis­es to help with her balance.

 

Photo by Keren Perez on Unsplash

Pho­to by Keren Perez on Unsplash

 

“The best way to calm down is to read a sto­ry,” Mor­ris said.  “I’m on my Kin­dle a lot.”

 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Pho­to by Ben White on Unsplash

 

 

As for self care, Mitchell said it is impor­tant for every­one, includ­ing the elder­ly, to take care of their body and mind by eat­ing right and get­ting some exer­cise. “It depends on (a per­son­’s) age and what they are capa­ble of doing,” Mitchell said.  “I’ve seen peo­ple in their 90s who are still going for walks.”

 

 

 

While the start of the pan­dem­ic can­celed Cindy Devine’s, 66, trip to Ken­tucky to see her twin grand­sons,  her favorite trav­el mem­o­ries all cen­ter around them.

 

Cindy Devine with Jaren and JT

Cindy Devine with Jarin and JT © Cindy Devine

 

She remem­bers head­ing home from one trip to Ohio when the boys gave her advice before she got on the plane. “Jarin said, ‘be very care­ful not to let a rhi­no on the plane cause his horn will put a hole in it,’ ” Devine said.  “JT said not to let mos­qui­toes on the plane cause ‘you can’t get them out, and they sting, Grammy.’ ”

The pan­dem­ic meant a big change for an active woman like Devine who gets some of her joy from work­ing at a large chil­dren’s cen­ter. She said when she start­ed to hear about things get­ting bad in mid-March, she told her boss that she would feel more com­fort­able work­ing from home due to her age and asth­ma and bron­chi­tis issues. Recent­ly, she was furloughed.

“The first week I start­ed a prayer jour­nal about gar­den­ing,” Devine said. “It was so hard for me to con­cen­trate.  I prayed it would give me the same ener­gy I have any oth­er day work­ing with tod­dlers. I decid­ed to be pos­i­tive dur­ing this time.”

 

Pho­to by Sheryl Sey­er on Unsplash

 

She said she has a rou­tine every day begin­ning with mak­ing the beds and also keep­ing things neat and put away.  She start­ed exer­cis­ing by walk­ing her dog most days and also sends cards to peo­ple to cheer them up as well as makes phone calls to check in on others.

 

Don­na Stret­ter, 72, a nurse who takes care of her son, Jonathan, who has a rare neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease that has con­fined him to a wheel­chair, said their dai­ly rou­tine has changed. “Per­son­al­ly, I find myself on the verge of tears occa­sion­al­ly,” Stret­ter said. “What trig­gers that feel­ing could be music, could be a song, could be a sit­u­a­tion on TV.  Because I’m a nurse, I relate a lot to what the health­care work­ers on the front line are going through.”

 

Don­na Stret­ter, her hus­band Rob, and sons Jonathan and Ron

 

 

Stret­ter’s days used to start at 6:00am to get Jonathan up, show­ered, dressed and fed in order to get him on the van that took him to his adult day cen­ter at 8:45; he would return at 4:15.

“In some ways my day starts lat­er (by an hour) because of that,” Stret­ter said. “We don’t have that win­dow of time to run errands.  We’ve had to can­cel med­ical clin­ic appoint­ments and we have phone call office vis­its for him.”

 

She said the oth­er thing she miss­es is week­ly vis­its to her grand­chil­dren dur­ing that win­dow of time as well.

 

While tech­nol­o­gy itself can be iso­lat­ing, Mitchell said, it can be used for good now in a num­ber of ways to con­nect and cre­ate the social inter­ac­tion that is need­ed. “You can con­nect social­ly using Zoom,” said Mitchell.  “Church­es (and syn­a­gogues) are try­ing to help peo­ple con­nect with ser­vices online. Those are very important.”

 

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

Pho­to by Adam Nieś­cioruk on Unsplash

 

Stret­ter said she has tried to stay con­nect­ed with peo­ple through tex­ting and phone calls includ­ing dai­ly calls from her son, Rob, but enjoys her church’s online meet­ings on Sat­ur­day morn­ings most because she can see church mem­bers on a Zoom call.

Her favorite trav­el mem­o­ry was an Alas­ka cruise with her hus­band, Ron, son, Rob, and daugh­ter in law, Eliz­a­beth, before they had chil­dren. “We had done it once before and want­ed to do it with them,” Stret­ter said.  “It was real­ly spe­cial to be able to share that together.”

 

Paula Vogler is a writer and reporter for many local papers in Mass­a­chu­setts where she calls home. She is an avid trav­el­er who has been to all 50 US states (many more than once), 20 coun­tries, and 5 con­ti­nents and is always ready with one foot out the door to set off on a new adven­ture. As one philoso­pher said, “The world is a book and those who do not trav­el read only one page.” 

 

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