Even as vaccination rates climb one year into the Covid-19 pandemic, the isolation paradox persists for many – particularly for older adults. Staying home is the best way to stay safe, yet isolation can take a toll, physically and mentally.  Recent evidence suggests that loneliness and social isolation pose a risk to health and longevity that is greater than obesity and comparable to inactivity and substance abuse.

Connecting Older Vermonters Virtually to Fight Isolation, Prevent Loneliness

Social distancing shouldn’t mean social interactions cease. Staying connected is more important than ever as the pandemic drags on. That’s why COVID Support VT is launching a new weekly activity group for older adults. It focuses on interactive activities that help older Vermonters connect with one another and have some fun. The group will include a mix of social time and some low-key games and activities, from informal get-to-know-you games like 20 questions to trivia and other more structured activities.

COVID Support VT Counselor Nate Reit will act as host, facilitator, and game master. “It is my intention to guide and encourage participants to interact with one another, share and connect as much as possible,” he says. “Interaction is the key goal.” Reit hopes to build a core group of participants interested in attending regularly, and welcomes feedback as the group evolves. 

Learn More About Social Isolation and Loneliness and Reach Out to Older Friends and Family

Hosted online every Wednesday 2-3 p.m., the group is geared to older adults but open to all. Participants can join either by video (Zoom) or audio; all activities will be fully accessible either way. Inviting friends and neighbors is encouraged. COVID Support VT staff will happily contact your friends or loved ones to invite them to join the fun; just fill out the Counselor Contact Form on the website.

Learn more about social isolation and loneliness on the National Institute on Aging’s website; find the information in Spanish also. Download or order a free copy of NIA’s new easy-to-read booklet on social isolation and loneliness. 

[CALL-OUT] COVID Support VT Support Counselors can link Vermonters to supports in their communities. Call 2-1-1, option #2 to speak with a counselor. Counselors are also available to reach out to someone who needs support and a connection. Let us know who could use a call, by filling out this Counselor Contact Form, and we will reach out. Be sure to get permission before sharing contact information.

Eldercare Clinicians are also available across the state to support the mental health of older Vermonters. To connect with your local community mental health center, visit VT Care Partners.

Tips and Resources for Helping Older Adults Stay Connected During Covid-19

Older adults have many tools and options to help them stay engaged, active and connected–both with and without technology. The resources below were compiled by the Administration for Community Living (ACL). Some of them were created with older adults in mind, but the suggestions and resources are good for people of any age.  (You can also find all of these links in one convenient location here.)

The ACL’s Commit to Connect program offers information, ideas and resources to help communities combat social isolation and loneliness.

This tip sheet from the ACL provides ideas for socializing and exploring the world through technology, as well as some low-tech suggestions.

How to Fight Social Isolation, an article by Erwin Tan, M.D. for the AARP.

Staying Connected at Home is compiled by ACL-funded Eldercare Locator and engAGED programs.

Feeling Good and Staying Connected is a 17-page comprehensive activity guide from the California Department of Aging.

Caring for the Well-being of Older Adults During COVID-19 is a resource guide from the Humanitarian Disaster Institute, a faith-based academic disaster research center at Wheaton College.

How to Become Tech-Savvy Seniors in 10 Days is a guide for older adults on learning to live a digital life.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) offers this guide to video and digital communication tools, which is a convenient first stop for people wanting to connect to each other remotely and understand the pros and cons of various tools for doing so.

SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, compiles trusted information about maintaining emotional well-being in crisis situations, including Resources for Older Adults, and these guides for coping with pandemic safety measures:

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Need to talk? 

Call 2-1-1 (option #2) or 866-652-4636 (option #2) for free, confidential, one-on-one counseling. Our Support Counselors are available Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

In crisis? 

If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can: call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825;  text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health agency for 24/7 support.

Find Help

Find resources and tools for coping with stress at www.COVIDSupportVT.org. Follow COVID Support VT on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And, to stay up-to-date, sign up for our newsletter and blog.

Learn about upcoming Wellness Groups and Workshops from COVID Support VT, and Town Halls we’re hosting in partnership with community organizations.

One-click translation of the entire COVIDSupportVT.org website to 100 languages, plus Multilingual Resources and downloadable materials in 10 languages common to Vermont’s New American immigrant and refugee communities. 

COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Departments of Emergency Management and Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports. 

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