Supporting the elderly

Just because the body has aged and become frail, does not mean the mind has. I’m reminded of this every time I speak to my Granny Eve (96-years-old) and my dear friend Dr Peter Emerson (95-years-old). Their sharp wit, intelligence, wisdom and views on life are as vibrant and opinionated as they’ve always been!

Talking to Peter and, like the rest of the UK, watching 99-year-old Captain Tom raising over £17 million (at the time I'm writing this) for NHS charities, got me thinking about all the wonderful ways to keep our elders (and betters!) stimulated during lockdown. Here’s just a few positive ideas I came across and I would love to hear if you have any others I can pass them on to Granny and Peter!

Holly Branson and Peter

1. Phone Trees: I recently read this article in the Guardian about elderly parishioners setting up phone trees. They call each other every day and share stories, quizzes, and generally just keep each other company. It's a lovely idea to suggest that your parents or older friends reach out to local groups or churches and form there own support group. It's one day to build back independence and the shared experiences of lives well lived!

2. Help them find purpose: I seem to find that popping to the shop or supermarket in the morning marks a positive start of the day for many elderly people. Now with lockdowns in place, that sense of purpose has been taken away soit may be worth suggesting some great alternatives. I loved these tips I picked up from an article on Mindfood.com that recommeded:

  • Exchanging letters or e-mails with family members.
  • Gardening (if possible) as it's been found to have a really positive impact on mental health. It can be as simple as a small herb box on a windowsill.
  • Writing a book or a short story. Maybe now is the time to write that memoir they’ve always talked about? My Granny Eve has written a great one!
  • Volunteering from the comfort of their own homes - there are service providers who are desperate for caring volunteers with a phone connection during this time.
  • Passing on a skill to family members or their peers (via video or phone) or learning a new skill themselves.

3. Help them become active online: Help them get set up online and send through suggestions for websites and online tools they might like. Sometimes we all get a bit daunted by the amount of the information out there, so try to narrow it down based on their interests and any new skills they may want to learn.  There are incredible online courses out there at the moment offering lessons completely free of charge. All of them will help keep the brain active and stimulated. This includes: 

  • Art therapy - drawing, painting etc.
  • Cookery - learning new recipes.
  • Language learning.
  • Daily quizzes.
  • Sudoku and other brain games.

The list is endless, but a little research by you on their behalf makes it a lot easier and not as tech-frightening!

Eve and Richard - watching Virgin Galactic flight

4. Remote gaming: I Ioved the recent stories about a young boy playing chess remotely with his Grandad via Facetime - just wonderful. Why not set aisde an hour once or twice a week to have a dedicated ‘game night’. It's. a fantastic experience for both the young and the old!

5. Keep active: Again, there are wonderful free resources online that are doing ‘gym classes’ for those past their gym-bunny prime! Pass on the details or if you are caring for an elderly person  or even join in with them. If an online workout isn't really possible, why not draw-up a fun little exercise plan and pass it on  in the post or popping it in the letterbox?

6. Online communities: I love finding out about online organisations and communities such as Elefriends that provides a safe place for people to share experiences and listen to others. If you know of any similar spaces please leave in the comments below and I’ll share them on my channels!

These are just a few positive ways to keep those minds agile while in isolation! We all miss our relatives and loves ones so much at the moment, but making sure they know just how much you miss them and how you cannot wait for the day you can give them a big hug is the best thing we can do for each other right now.

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