Government guidance for the over-70s during the current period of ‘lockdown’ is particularly stringent when it comes to social distancing measures.1 This is essential for keeping the older generation safe and well, but it can also create feelings of loneliness and isolation. We’ve put together some tips for helping keep older family members’ or neighbours spirits up while making sure they stay safe.

1. Encourage exercise

Exercise is a great way to boost energy and mood, whatever your age. Encouraging older people to stay active will make a positive difference to both their physical and mental wellbeing while they’re required to stay away from friends and family.  The over-70s are still encouraged to go out for exercise as long as they take care to stay at least two metres away from other people.1 Walks are a great option for working the cardiovascular system and burning calories, while also providing some welcome fresh air.

For those restricted to their home or for rainy days, the NHS website provides several options for home exercises that, while low impact, will help with strength and positivity.

2. Stay in touch

Loneliness is one of the biggest risks of social distancing and self-isolation for anyone, but you can help older family members and friends combat this by staying in touch regularly. If they’re online and happy using technology, FaceTime, WhatsApp video or Zoom video conferencing are great ways to interact and let people know that you’re there for them.

For those less comfortable with online options, regular calls will reassure them that they’re not alone. Encourage them to reach out regularly to other friends and family as well.

3. Head outside

Spring is a good time to get out in the garden. Gardening is positive for both physical and mental health2 and could be a great way to stay busy and create a real sense of achievement in these challenging times. There’s also never been a better time to grow your own fruit and vegetables; it could reduce the number of times you need to stock up on fresh items.

Check out the Royal Horticultural Society’s website for fantastic gardening tips. For those needing tools, plants and seeds, there are numerous online delivery services available, giving them access to all the gardening resources they need while following government guidance. 

4. Find new ways to socialise

Just because you can’t get together in person doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun with friends and family. One of the more positive aspects of the challenges placed upon us by the coronavirus outbreak is that people have been thinking creatively about how to interact with others and keep entertained. Digital versions of games, including Cluedo and Monopoly, allow groups of people to play remotely and many families are getting together online to play bingo, Trivial Pursuit and pub quizzes.3 Quizzes can even be done over the phone, email or via text message if your friend or family member is camera shy. 

5. Make thoughtful gestures

There’s a reason that some online delivery businesses have been thriving despite the current challenges: thoughtful gestures and treats go a long way to brighten up people’s days, letting them know you’re thinking of them. Many local bakeries are now doing home deliveries of bread and cakes – a great inexpensive option for older relatives who can’t currently get out to the shops – and flowers are always a welcome gesture. For a simple and low-cost gesture, send a letter, card or picture drawn by grandchildren (also a good way to keep the kids occupied).   

6. Try something new

While these are undoubtably challenging times, the change of pace also provides the opportunity to try something new. It’s important to encourage older family members to spend time doing things they enjoy, whether that’s reading, cooking, listening to the radio or watching TV. But maybe they could also use the time to develop new interests or skills. If they love listening to the radio, help them to discover podcasts on subjects that interest them, or encourage them to learn a new language. This not only helps people to feel busy and occupied, but also creates a feeling of positivity.

These are just a few ways to help older friends and relatives – and everyone else – stay happy, healthy and in contact while staying safe. We’d love you to share any ideas you’ve had via Facebook or Twitter.


1 2 Royal Horticultural Society 3 Insider


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