For senior citizens, two of the most common challenges are loneliness and cognitive decline. As the pandemic makes life even more complicated for seniors worldwide, video conferencing platforms like Zoom are helping them become more resilient
Even prior to COVID-19, senior citizens were coping with a myriad of unique challenges. Many were dealing with poor health. Others were coping with grief and loneliness. Many others felt “left out” of mainstream society. And many were experiencing a gradual decline in their cognitive functions, which negatively impacted their self-confidence and self-worth.
But then the coronavirus pandemic hit. And everything became much more difficult.
An Isolated Environment
Since the onset of the pandemic, much of the human population has been busy trying to avoid the novel coronavirus. Yet some at-risk populations, including people over 70, are advised to take extra precautions to avoid serious COVID-19 complications.
Statistically speaking, since the pandemic spread worldwide, at-risk populations have been staying indoors and meeting less people face-to-face than populations that are not considered at-risk. This behavior may reduce the chance of catching the coronavirus, but it can also make senior citizens feel even more isolated than they had ever felt before. This is concerning because, in many cases, heightened isolation and less contact with the outside world can increase the chances of cognitive decline and depression.
Adapt or Decline
These are not ideal times for senior citizens. Many seniors are already living very arduous lives, and this new reality makes things much harder. Many others, who were looking forward to traveling and enjoying the fruits of decades of hard work, are now staying home and lamenting a significant decrease in their quality of life.
Without warning, many seniors now feel the pain of being left with two choices: adapt or decline. Yet how does one adapt to a painful reality, where face-to-face meetings with family and friends have becomes scarce, or even nonexistent? How can one adapt to hardly leaving the house? Or constantly worrying about contracting COVID-19?
Battling Social Isolation
As terrible as this pandemic crisis is, it has also created many opportunities for promising change. In the case of senior citizens, Zoom and other video conferencing solutions are helping craft a newfound cognitive and emotional resilience.
Social isolation and loneliness are a cause of great concern for senior citizens and their families. As seniors stay home and are more reluctant to meet family and friends, they use Zoom to communicate. Video communication has many benefits, yet as almost every family member will tell you, it’s not the same as giving someone you love a hug or meeting them in person.
In this regard, it is worth noting two things. The first is that video communication is far superior to email or phone communication. The second is that video communication – and especially Zoom – is very easy to use. Simplicity of use has, in many cases, raised the frequency in which family members meet with one another. It’s not the same as meeting your children and grandchildren in your living room, but if they used to drop by once a week or once a month, with Zoom it’s much easier to orchestrate more frequent visits. This can result in a reduced sense of loneliness and isolation.
New Forms of Learning
Cognitive decline is something many seniors worry about, and for good reason. With age, the neurons in our brain require constant stimulation to thrive. Among the many activities that can stimulate the brain, active learning is at the top of the list.
In recent months, Zoom has been recognized as a great platform for learning and sharing knowledge. Conferences, think tank sessions, lessons, talks and lectures have all moved from the physical realm to the virtual space – and can be easily accessed via Zoom and other platforms.
Although this shift is necessary, many of us cannot wait for things to go back to normal. But for many senior citizens who experience mobility issues, this new reality provides access to vast amounts of mind-stimulating information. Suddenly, learning has become much easier.
In recent months, accessible learning has prompted many media companies to begin developing content that specifically targets elderly populations. This content can be very diverse – from academic lectures and online group discussions to exercise workouts and language lessons. The possibilities are limitless.
The Advantages of Brain Activation
For many years, it was thought that the brain’s ability to create new neurons dissolves with age. Yet it is now known that certain actions stimulate the creation of new neurons in the brain at any age. Experts use the term “brain rewiring” or “neurogenesis” to describe the ability to rejuvenate the neurons in the brain (namely in the hippocampus) and to actively improve cognitive capabilities. Many people who experience cognitive decline employ professional cognitive therapists, who provide customized and methodical brain training.
Assuming the vast majority of seniors do not rely on therapists, there are certain activities that are recommended for independent brain stimulation. Engaging in human interactions, active learning and exercise are examples of such activities. Zoom allows seniors to increase the frequency of visual communication with family members and provides easy access to a wide range of stimulating content. It is also a great way to exercise remotely with a certified and attentive trainer.
In this pandemic, it would not be an exaggeration to state that the lives of senior citizens have been literally turned upside down. Those who gradually build resilience will find it easier to adapt to a changing world, and to lead happier lives. Video communication is a great place to start.