Ask St. Ann’s – Staying Connected While Keeping Your Distance

By Ellen Baker, Social Worker Manager for St. Ann’s Community.

Time spent with loved ones is often the high point of any senior’s day. As the spread of the coronavirus makes it necessary for everyone to practice social distancing to stay physically safe, people still need human connection to nurture their social and emotional health and well-being.

Social distancing is necessary because respiratory illnesses such as coronavirus place seniors at a higher risk of infection. For this reason, senior living communities follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Health and restrict visitors to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Here are some ways you can help the seniors in your life stay healthy and connected while practicing social distancing.

Buddy up

Stay in touch with the people close to you, especially those who are social distancing, too. The CDC recommends creating buddy systems so vulnerable, hard-to-reach people have someone keeping an eye out for them and sharing updates on news about COVID-19. If you’re healthy and able to do so, virtually check in on your older friends and relatives, too. Drop off groceries or pick up medications for them, so they don’t have to go out. It’s a great way to feel needed and to help those in need.

St. Ann’s Community established a buddy program in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This program pairs residents with team members who volunteer to visit them multiple times a week to check in, talk and listen. These volunteers also help the seniors contact their families via video chat, phone, or other means.

Learn new technology

Using social media is the next best thing to being there. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are desktop or mobile platforms that make it fun and easy to talk with family and friends anywhere in the world. If you’re not very tech-savvy, there are plenty of how-to videos online to help you set up a free account.

To promote well-being during restricted visitation, the St. Ann’s Community Foundation collaborated with social work and IT teams to buy more tablets so skilled nursing and assisted living residents and their buddies could take advantage of video chat technology. The virtual visits do wonders to keep everyone’s spirits up and minimize feelings of isolation. After each visit, every tablet gets disinfected to ensure everyone’s safety.

Stay active in your community from home

Use your downtime to become a virtual volunteer. You can make phone calls to check in on elderly neighbors. Say prayers for members of your faith community who might be sick. Send out email blasts or start a Facebook group to share news, conversation, and words of encouragement with your social circle.

Send a letter or card.

Pick up a pen and paper and write a heartfelt letter — something your loved one can hold and enjoy many times over. While St. Ann’s Community welcomes mail for residents, the staff keeps all letters and packages for three days before delivering them to minimize possible virus exposure.

Now, more than ever, a safe and nurturing human connection is what we need to stay healthy, comfort each other, and foster hope for the future.

 Ellen Baker is the Social Worker Manager at St. Ann’s Community. Contact her at [email protected] or 585-697-6676, or visit

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