By MADDY VITALE
In the beginning of a pandemic it becomes a reality that the many things that one takes for granted are on hold — no more gatherings or parties or events — and for some it can leave a feeling of isolation and loneliness.
But Kathi Dwyer, media liaison for Ocean City’s AARP Chapter 1062, and Michele Musto, volunteer coordinator for United Methodist Communities at The Shores in Ocean City, the seniors just had to get a bit inventive and creative in ways to continue socializing – albeit at least six feet from their friend.
Both Dwyer and Musto said their senior populations are tech savvy using various social media platforms to safely keep engaged. However, getting outside and being active are other highly recommended ways to stay healthy both emotionally and physically, they noted.
“Many of our members are mobile and driving. I encourage them to continue social distancing, but to go for short or long walks,” Dwyer said. “There are some elderly people who are housebound and can’t get around, so talking to their friends on the phone is a good way to have contact with people.”
She added that people could even partake in “distant chatting” with their neighbors in their yards.
Other ways AARP members are keeping engaged is through Facebook. OCNJ AARP Chapter 1062 has a page with a wealth of information about COVID-19 from Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order requiring New Jersey residents to “stay at home” and all non-essential businesses to remain closed.
The Facebook page also contains an array of services that seniors may use, including the county’s Fare Free Transportation for needed medical appointments such as dialysis and even information about online food store ordering for all of a senior’s groceries.
Dwyer said some pastimes such as reading a good book or watching old movies or upbeat Hallmark Channel shows are all great ways to get through a bad time in history.
In the Facebook post to AARP Chapter 1062’s members it said:
“AARP has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years.”
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, AARP is providing information and resources to help older people and those caring for them to protect themselves from the virus and prevent it from spreading to others. You can find AARP’s coronavirus resources online at https://www.aarp.org/health/?cmp=CON-HEALTH-COVID19-031220.
“We will be updating our AARP Facebook page with additional information going forward,” Dwyer said.
Musto, the UMC volunteer coordinator, said the residents at the facility, which has assisted living residents through hospice, has put together a host of ways to keep the residents active, while staying at a safe distance.
One of the activities is bingo, which Musto runs twice a day, but with participants sitting far apart, she emphasized.
She said there has been an outpouring of support from the community. Volunteers have created cards and letters and sent gifts to keep the residents upbeat in a critical time.
“We are getting very creative in ways to connect,” Musto said. “Just because we are a retirement community doesn’t mean we can’t keep up with technology. We know it is unprecedented, so we are really pulling together to make everyone happy.”
And just as AARP members need to stay connected, Musto said the UMC residents must stay active.
“We have a responsibility to the families to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable and connected. We are social beings, so we are really encouraging people to do crossword puzzles, connect with each other in many ways. Write a letter. Read a good book,” Musto said.
She continued, “We are just trying to get through each day and do so with a sense of humor. This is a serious situation, but you still need to keep the joy and humor and the fun in life. We are a friendly community.”
For more information visit OCNJ AARP 1062 on Facebook or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about United Methodist Communities at The Shores go to the Facebook page or visit https://theshores.umcommunities.org