Senior well-being: Connecting across the generations

Sep 14, 2020


Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation has been a significant health concern. In one study, over one-third of adults aged 45 and older reported feelings of loneliness. And those feelings have substantial health risks. Adults who are isolated have about a 50% increased risk of dementia and a 29% increased risk of heart disease. Loneliness is a risk factor that can be as significant in predicting premature death as smoking, obesity and physical activity.

Thankfully, fostering our relationships and connections can help us live longer and be happier. Consider these ways to connect across generations with the seniors in your life.

Schedule virtual visits

If you have a loved one whose age puts them in a higher-risk category for COVID-19, find ways to visit virtually. FaceTime, Skype and Zoom are all options that many seniors can easily use. If setting up a video call is stressful or difficult, however, a simple phone call can still make a big difference.

If you are video chatting, find fresh and interesting ways to connect. You can stream concerts together online, play games or host a small book club. During this time of visiting restrictions, sending a small gift or hot meal can go a long way in helping your loved one feel remembered. You might try sending dinner to your elderly family member, then getting on a video call to eat together.

Cross-generational conversations

Don’t be afraid to ask the questions you’ve always wondered. Many seniors love opening up and sharing their memories and experiences. Sharing stories with each other is one of the best ways to connect across generations.

Try some of these conversation starters on your next call with your elderly loved one:

  • Tell me about one of your favorite childhood memories.
  • What’s your favorite place you’ve ever lived?
  • What was the most interesting job you’ve ever had?
  • Walk me through your favorite recipe.
  • What is one of your most meaningful possessions? Tell me the story of why it’s meaningful.

Learning new activities

It’s easy to get caught up in teaching seniors to use technology—but remember that they can teach you hobbies and activities that have nothing to do with being online. Many older adults can share a significant amount of knowledge about how to entertain ourselves when life slows down. This might include baking bread together, exchanging recipes, bird watching, woodworking, sewing or a wide range of other activities.

Your senior family members or friends may also enjoy being your pen pal. The act of letter-writing has been associated with improved moods and increased cognitive development. Plus, sending mail is a great way to remind people you care and are thinking of them. Continue finding new ways to connect with each other. Besides improving mental health, your relationship will likely grow even stronger.