There’s an article making the rounds on Facebook about adult children who are freaking out because their Boomer parents are not taking the present global pandemic seriously and continuing on with their lives and activities as though nothing is happening. Why? Because these Boomers don’t acknowledge that they are, in fact, seniors and in a high-risk population for COVID-19. The article is pretty funny, in a black-humor sort of way.
Hopefully, you are not one of those seniors. Hopefully, you are being smart and hunkering down at home and practicing social distancing measures if/when you do venture out, keeping six feet from other people and washing your hands a lot, among other measures.
But as the current situation threatens to continue on for an unknown time frame, you may also be feeling bored, lonely and anxious. So here are some ideas for ways to help yourself and your community while keeping safe.
#1. Start your day with mindfulness meditation.Rebecca Shisler Marshall, a faculty member at UGA whose area of expertise is helping people deal with stress and anxiety, suggests the following exercise: Turn your attention to the way it feels in your body right now—the coolness on the edge of your nose as you breathe in, and the warmth as you breathe out. Or just notice the feel of whatever you are sitting against. See if you can be present with the sensations in the body for just five seconds. This is mindfulness.There are plenty of online resources if you want to explore further, including a four-week DIY course called Everyday Mindfulness that Marshall is offering through her Centered Living website (http://www.centeredyou.com/). If you’d rather pray than meditate (or want to do both), many local churches are offering services online; check websites.
#2. Stay informed.DO NOT believe everything you see on social media. Instead, go to reliable sources like the CDC website (http://www.centeredyou.com/) and the Georgia Department of Public Health (https://dph.georgia.gov/). The New York Times is offering free access to their extensive coverage of COVID-19, as well as an e-newsletter you can get delivered to your inbox daily (see button near top of their website to sign up). And AARP (https://www.aarp.org/) has special info for seniors, including advice for caregivers.
For local information, visit the Athens Clarke County government website (https://www.athensclarkecounty.com/), where you can see video messages from Mayor Kelly Girtz and watch meetings of the county commissioners live via YouTube. You can also find info on how to give input on their decisions since meetings are not presently open to the public. Also check the University of Georgia website (https://www.uga.edu/) for info being shared with faculty, staff and students. Did you know that a group of faculty from the Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases is operating a coronavirus tracker and that another faculty member is working on a vaccine? Go dogs! Sic this epidemic!
#3. Keep your pantry stocked, but don’t hoard.If you are not already the kind of shopper who plans ahead and makes a list, now is the time to do that. Grocery stores are working overtime to keep stores clean and stocked, but we all know there has been panic-buying of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, which means they’re hard to find. So just buy what you need. Many stores are placing limits on certain items anyway. Also check current store hours, which have changed recently. Mornings are usually less crowded (and shelves and other surfaces will have been recently cleaned), but you can also call your store and ask for advice. Or place orders online and take advantage of curbside pickup or delivery. And did you know the Athens Farmers Market (http://athensfarmersmarket.net/) is also taking orders through Collective Harvest for pickup or delivery? Support our local farmers until in-person markets are open again. And be sure to thank those who are working hard to provide for all of us.
#4. Keep busy.Now is a great time to do spring cleaning, put away winter clothes, and organize closets. You can also tackle all those jobs you never get around to, like sorting family photos and decluttering those spaces where “stuff” accumulates.
#5. Get outside.Fortunately, the weather is getting warmer, so take a walk in your neighborhood or putter in the yard or garden. If your yard is like ours, there’s lots of weeds to pull right now. But don’t overdo it. Be mindful of your limits, so you don’t end up sore or, worse yet, needing to see a doctor for a strain or sprain. Athens has many beautiful outdoor spaces to visit. There’s the State Botanical Garden (ground open noon to 7 p.m.), and the UGA campus (now that students are mostly gone). Just be mindful of social distancing when you run into others. As of Thursday, March 19, Athens-Clarke County has closed parks and dog parks.
#6. Get some exercise.Yes, classes are currently not available at most local facilities. But in addition to walking, there are exercises you can do at home and even while sitting. Silver Sneakers is offering classes via Facebook Live and members can also access videos and subscribe to an electronic newsletter with exercise tips (https://tools.silversneakers.com/). Local tai chi instructor Michele Simpson suggests Googling her mentor David Dorian Ross, who has many free videos on YouTube. One she recommends is called Sunrise, which contains many of the moves she teaches in her classes. Some other local instructors are setting up classes via Zoom.
#7. Exercise your mind.While OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) has cancelled face-to-face classes for the rest of the semester, some are being offered online via Zoom. Check the OLLI website (https://olli.uga.edu/) to find out what classes are available and to register for any classes you hadn’t previously. And If you haven’t yet tried Zoom, there are instructions to help get started.
#8. Read a book (or several).The Athens Regional Library System is closed at this time, but you can access books and magazines online through the RBdigital app. See link on the website (http://www.athenslibrary.org/athens) You can also sign up for the NextReads newsletter for book reviews and suggestions . Support your local bookstore by ordering from Avid (https://www.avidbookshop.com/). See info on their website about arranging pickup while the store is closed. And several neighborhoods around town stock free “little libraries.”
#9. Support the arts.This is a very hard time for arts organizations such as UGA’s Performing Arts Center, the Classic Center, Town and Gown and other local theaters and entertainment venues. As PAC director Jeff Martin noted in a recent email to patrons announcing the cancellation of the remainder of the PAC’s spring season: “It pains us to turn off the lights in our venues for the next two months, but we know this will bring safety and peace to our community during this challenging and unprecedented time in our history. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we continue to work through the ramifications of these cancellations and changes.” While most venues are offering refunds for cancelled performances and events, other options are to donate the cost of the tickets or apply the cost as a credit to be used later.
#10. Support local businesses and charities.While restaurants are generally closed, many are offering takeout and curbside delivery options. Flagpole has a list (https://flagpole.com/blogs/grub-notes/posts/helping-out-restaurants-while-social-distancing). Or call your favorite eatery to check. And remember those in our community who especially need help. If you are able to, send a donation to the Northeast Georgia Food Bank, the Athens Area Humane Society, the Athens Community Council on Aging, or other local service organizations.
And finally, but perhaps most importantly, STAY CONNECTED. There’s Facebook and other social media, of course, just be even more aware of fake news right now. Facetime is a great way to visit with grandkids. You can also call or text friends, family and neighbors. Or email them, or drop a card or letter in your mailbox. Don’t hesitate to reach out to let others know you’re thinking about them – or to ask for help if you need it.
We’re all in this together, so let’s do our best to take care of ourselves and others.
Sharron Hannon is retired from UGA where she was director of public relations for academic affairs.