5 Ways to Use Technology to Stay Connected While Social Distancing

smiling senior adult parents talking with daughter over mobile phone video call

While much of the country continues to practice social distancing for the foreseeable future, we are fortunate to live in times when technology affords us incredible opportunities for staying connected to each other. Particularly for seniors, the challenges presented by increased social isolation, are good motivation for them to get up to speed on the many ways they can connect.

As many seniors and others have discovered, physical distancing does not mean we have to be disconnected. We can still “see” our loved ones, be conversational, be entertained, be checked upon, and feel loved through the gifts of technology.

Here are a few ways the teams at United Methodist Communities are helping residents stay happy, supported and connected during the time of social-distancing.

1. Make video calls to your loved ones

While virtual meetings and video conferencing have been in the day-to-day realm of working professionals for many years now, the expansion of video meetings into the purely social realm during COVID has been unprecedented. Video calling has become easier, cheaper, more reliable, and more capable so that it is now within the reach of everyone. Here are a few free, and easy to use tools that UMC associates use every day to connect residents and families.

  • Facetime is a favorite if you have an apple device. Essentially, you just make a call from your Facetime app just like you’d make a voice-only call and the person will answer on the other end and you’ll both see each other. It’s that easy. For folks on Android smartphones, Google hangouts is also a great option and it works similarly. Note that you can’t make a call from Google Hangouts to Facetime. All participants on the call must use the same app.
  • Skype – To get around phone complexities, just set up an account on skype. Skype can be used on any smart device as well as on a desktop computer, and you can have up to 50 people dial into a call at once! Once you set up an account you can search for your friends on skype and call them through the app for free! Note that if you are using skype to call an actual phone, toll charges will apply.
  • Zoom – This conferencing app has come on strong as the app of choice for gatherings of more than two It is also free and allows multiple callers to participate. You will see everyone’s video in a grid on your screen. The free version limits groups of three or more to calls of 45 minutes, but in the paid version this restriction is lifted.

2. Engage in group chats

Not everyone can attend a video call in real-time. That’s why sometimes communicating over messages can be easier. In addition to normal text messaging, apps such as Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and WhatsApp make it quick and easy to chat with your friends and family groups all in one place without needing to set up a time for a live conference call. You can send photos, videos, and audio clips to your entire group all at once that they can look at whenever they want. So, set up a group chat with your friends and family, and stay connected.

3. Social media

We all know people who aren’t on Facebook yet, or who are but never look at it. Now is a good time for those folks to get over their aversion to social media and see it for what it is: one of the most comprehensive and engaging ways to stay connected to your friends, your family, and the world at large.

Sharing something on your Facebook page and then watching people comment and communicate with you is a great form of entertainment and a great source of information. Using Facebook is a great way to continue seeing the people you know doing the things you can’t do with them right now. Facebook allows for the sharing of articles, selfies, videos, and other information that is both useful and informative.

4. Listen to the radio

You can still listen to the radio the old-fashioned way, on an actual radio. Nowadays however you can access radio stations, from across the country and across the world via a smart device. Smartphone applications like Spotify, TuneIn (Android), or myTuner (Apple) give you access to music, talk radio, sports all in real-time.

5. Follow a simple live online workout class

The World Health Organization’s guide to “stay physically active during self-quarantine,” bears mentioning. Attending a live exercise class like yoga or pilates can be a great way of seeing and interacting with other people, not to mention staying moving and active in a time of limited mobility. There is a wide range of classes available online. Whether you’re looking for something intense, or if you’re just trying to get a simple stretch session in, there is likely a local gym running socially safe, virtual exercise classes.

Be Safe, Be Cautious, But Be Connected

There is no reason to be sad or depressed by the need for social distancing. At United Methodist Communities we recognized this early on and in all our communities we increased our investment in iPads and paid software subscriptions so as to accommodate all our residents’ needs for contact. Our associates are all well-versed in the use of technology and are helping seniors bridge the technology gap every day to stay connected. The best part is that so many seniors who avoided social technology for years are learning to love it and become independent with it!

Hugs may be on hold for the moment, but fun and connectivity are in abundant supply!

Check out how UMC is making the most out of quarantine and social distancing at our communities!

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