The coronavirus outbreak has pulled the rug out from under the lives of millions of senior citizens. Because the virus causes more serious illness and even death in the elderly, they are being forced to isolate themselves from family, friends, community and church.
Even simple shopping trips are out of the question for many, and this not only contributes to loneliness and isolation but will make it hard for those without family members close by to keep themselves stocked with food and medicine.
It’s always important to look after the vulnerable elderly, but this crisis has made this outreach more crucial than ever before.
Here are some things people can do in neighborhoods or parishes to help senior family members, friends, neighbors and fellow parishioners:
Keep in touch. Many seniors face loneliness even during normal times, and this situation is going to make it even worse as most can’t receive regular visits from family or friends.
Reach out to communicate with seniors you know in a safe way. Make regular phone calls and send text messages or emails. Video chat programs like Facetime could be especially helpful. Get together with others from your parish to start a “check in” service and tap volunteers who can make daily calls to seniors who live alone to check on them and offer friendly conversation.
Hit the stores. Shopping is out of the question right now for many seniors, especially those with chronic health conditions. Offer to become their own personal shopper. Pick up groceries, prescriptions, pet items, and other items they need. Organize a group of friends or volunteers at your parish to offer this service.
Many stores are also beginning to offer “senior only” hours at the beginning of the day for those who still want to do their own shopping. Offer to give a ride to those who can’t drive but still would like this chance to go to the store.
Donate. Organizations that serve senior citizens are going to be busier than ever before in the next several weeks. Check with local groups that work with seniors and find out what they need the most. Money, food, cleaning and other household supplies, and paper products are among the most needed.
Consider a donation to Catholic Charities of South Carolina, which serves many seniors through its food pantries: https://charitiessc.org/
Pray with them. Not being able to attend worship services is hard for elderly people who count on their church. Find a way to pray with an older adult, whether it is on the phone or over Facetime. If they are Catholic, show them ways to practice their faith even without going to Mass — give information about how to watch Mass over the internet or on TV and let them know about apps such as Laudate which offer meditations, the daily readings, and the Liturgy of the Hours.