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Among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, the elderly in our communities are confronting abrupt and often confusing restrictions to their daily life. In response, neighbors and volunteers are reaching out to help the elderly in a variety of ways, however, some of our well-intentioned acts may end up doing more harm than good by unwittingly spreading the virus. Here are some ways to assist the elderly while keeping them and yourself safe:

Safe check-ins. The most prudent way to check in with your elderly neighbors to see if they need assistance is to call them. If you don’t have their phone number, go to their front door and knock with your elbow or use a paper towel to ring the doorbell. Then immediately step back a safe distance – at least six feet – before they open the door. 

Grocery drop-off. Housebound seniors most definitely need help with grocery shopping, however, safely transmitting packages is critical. Wipe down bags and milk containers with antibacterial wipes before leaving them on the doorstep.

A friendly voice. One of the most difficult aspects of virus-related restrictions is that the elderly are now cut off from their families and social activities. Help fill the void by calling your senior neighbors every day or so just to chat. Or on a nice day, have an in-person visit at a safe distance in the front yard.

Give a tech lesson. While much of the world has turned to technology to stay connected, this is often a foreign and overwhelming concept for senior citizens. Write out step-by-step instructions for using Facetime, email, Facebook, setting up a Netflix account, or whatever other technology they may have access to. Slip the instructions under their door then have them call you so you can talk them through it.

Have kids write letters. Elderly neighbors who may be missing their grandchildren will be uplifted by notes and drawings from your children – no matter how old they are! Just make sure everyone washes their hands before creating their note. Or, if your senior neighbors are able to use the Internet, have the kids send a video message or song. This will have the double benefit of keeping your children occupied as well.

If you’re looking for more ways to help the elderly during this time, call a local nursing home in your area and find out how you might be able to assist them and their residents.