These days, there are so many ways to stay connected with the people you love. From good old-fashioned letters and phone calls to FaceTime and family Zoom meetings, technology seems to provide endless ways to keep connected.
But when a parent or loved one moves into a senior community, many people realize that it’s easy to have good intentions about staying connected regularly but fall short—life is hectic and time flies. It’s easy to postpone a phone call or skip a weekly visit.
That’s why it’s crucial to actually make a solid plan on how you’ll stay connected with your loved one in a senior living community. Regardless of which senior living lifestyle your loved one requires, we have some easy tips to make sure they stay connected with you and other loved ones.
In-person visits will help keep families truly connected to their loved one once they are in a senior living community.
If your loved one’s family and extended family are close enough, schedule regular family visits—maybe Sunday dinners or a biweekly game night. Senior communities should have family and recreational areas where groups can do all kinds of activities together, or just spend time together, hanging out. If your loved one’s family and extended family don’t live close enough for frequent in-person visits, schedule monthly or bi-monthly visits, if possible.
Now, if your loved one’s family and extended family are way too far away for regular in-person visits, schedule virtual visits. (That’s easier than it sounds, and we’ll get into more about virtual visits in a moment.)
Having scheduled visits on a calendar will give you and your loved one something to look forward to, and that plan provides comfort on days when you might be missing each other. These regularly scheduled family visits add to the structure of a resident’s life in senior living, and they’re an ideal way to make sure as many family members as possible can stay in touch.
Family visits and connections are vital for seniors, so making an actual scheduled visitation plan will ensure that your loved one isn’t missing out on family time. If you’re still in the stage of looking for a senior living community for your loved one, make sure to ask about how families are encouraged to be involved in community life.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic and other events of 2020, most of us have had no choice but to become well-acquainted with having a more “virtual” life. Whether it’s work or just wanting to “see” family and friends, we’ve all learned the value of remote connection and a strong wifi signal.
For residents in senior communities, things like Zoom and FaceTime were their direct link to family members during 2020 when in-person visits weren’t allowed due to pandemic restrictions. But even before that, these remote connection platforms were a popular way for people across the country or even in another country were able to stay in touch regularly with their loved ones in senior living communities.
Just as you would plan an in-person visit, schedule regular virtual visits. Choose a common platform like Zoom or Skype, or use whatever technology your loved one’s senior community already has in place for virtual visits.
Even though you can’t hug through a virtual visit, seeing faces and hearing voices help keep everyone more connected. It’s as close as you can get to an in-person visit—and your loved one’s senior living community should be more than happy to accommodate these connections, including virtual.
If you think that seniors aren’t big on social media, think again. Many seniors use social media with ease, often prolifically posting photos of their grandchildren and memes.
As a matter of fact, Facebook is popular with seniors, with 41 percent of seniors age 65 or older using the platform, and 65 percent of those aged 50-64. According to Pew, since 2006 social media usage by people aged 65 or older has increased by more than 45 percent today. So social media isn’t just for the kids anymore—it’s also for great-grandparents.
Any social media platform is a great way for seniors to see photos of family events, watch loved ones reach milestones like first days of school or graduations, or just join in on some fun conversations. Even if you’re just using social media to have some good fun with goofy GIFS and memes, it’s still a great way to stay connected and have a laugh with your loved one in senior living.
You probably need to call more.
If your loved one is in a senior community, and you make sure you call them regularly, double the current frequency. The calls don’t have to be long, but frequent phone communication with your loved one reminds them that you’re thinking of them, even when you can’t be there.
Frequent phone calls also don’t have to be deep stuff. Chatting about something as simple as how crowded the grocery store was or what the neighbor’s dog is up to will connect your loved one to your everyday life. In return, your loved one can fill you in on the daily activities and life in their community. It’s just general life sharing, and these little phone-based touchpoints really help residents of senior communities stay connected.
If your loved one is in memory care or has other issues that make communicating more challenging, talk to their caregiver. They can help you find ways to meaningfully and regularly interact with your loved one.
For example, your loved one’s senior living staff can facilitate activities for an in-person visit or set up the technology needed for a virtual visit. Community staff can be particularly helpful if your loved one is receiving memory care services, or if they have any medical issues that are keeping them under a doctor’s care.
Also, if you aren’t sure how frequently you should contact your loved one, ask. Senior living community professionals spend hours and hours every day with your loved one, and can help you best decide when and how to connect. Like you, they want what’s best for your loved one and will be able to give you a good idea of when and how to interact.
No matter how you connect, remember that connections go both ways. It’s not just crucial that your loved one feels involved in your life—make sure you get involved in theirs.
Ask about their community friends, daily activities, and anything special going on. Give them a chance to chat about new friends and any fun day-in-the-life stories they have to share. A strong, two-way connection with your loved one in senior living benefits everyone.
At Cedarhurst, our residents are encouraged to spend lots of quality time with their loved ones. We consider our residents’ loved ones as part of our extended family. Learn more about what a day in the life at a senior living community is like, and check out these Cedarhurst resident stories.