Social distancing is the government strategy being used to combat coronavirus, but we are social creatures. To be told we can’t go anywhere or visit friends and family will cause a lot of stress, particularly for those that have loved ones that are living on their own. These truly are unprecedented times but we still need to put them into context.
We’ve been asked to stay in so that we do not pass on this invisible killer, to protect the vulnerable, to protect our NHS and, hopefully, reduce the amount of time that our government needs to enforce these tighter restrictions. However much you want to go and visit elderly parents/grandparents or vulnerable friends, don’t, it is for them that we stay home. We are not being drafted to war, we are being asked to stay home and sit on our sofa. Today’s soldiers are the doctors, nurses, and medical staff that are facing this virus daily, and it is for them that we stay home.
So how do you stay in touch? How can you still be there for your loved ones while we are all in isolation at home? The majority of us will have access to the internet and the online world beyond, but what about those that don’t?
It’s good to talk!
Our telephones, landline and mobiles alike, will be in more use than ever: for staying in touch; for reassuring family members and friends who are on their own and can feel quite isolated at this time; for school children of all ages to stay connected with their friends.
There are a couple of apps that are facilitating online group chats, Zoom or Houseparty are two that seem to be quite popular. I’ve enjoyed a virtual drinks night with the girls while the kids have enjoyed a class group chat. If nothing else they’ll master the social etiquette of not talking over each other on a conference call… although they have a long way to go yet!
Audacity can help you to plan out your calls, be it a one to one call on the landline or a group chat on the app. You can set up a task to call someone and set these to repeat daily or weekly so that you don’t miss anyone or forget to catch up with someone on a regular basis, particularly if you are concerned for the mental health of someone and how being isolated can affect them.
If the last couple of days are to go by the family social calendar is going to be full of chats and will need some organising!
Online social activities
Most of us have hobbies and activities that take place outside the home and within groups of friends. However, as these are all currently restricted, a virtual world catering for all manner of hobbies is emerging online:
- For the moviegoers, Netflix Party is a Chrome Extension that synchronises your viewing of any Netflix content with your friends and lets you live chat while it plays. You can even pause the show for everyone if one of you needs a bathroom break or more snacks.
- Are you a pub quizzer? Pubs and breweries all over the country have been moving their pub quizzes online and Nottingham is no exception with the Trent Navigation Sunday evening brainteaser!
- Prefer a big of a boogie? Get your dancing shoes on and join the @BigKitchenDisco every night from 7pm
- Love a good sing-song? Warm-up those vocal cords and register with Gareth Malone’s Great British Home Chorus
- More of a reader? Well take your pick, virtual book clubs are springing up all over!
These are just the tip of the iceberg and the bonus of all these activities is that no babysitter is required! Staying in is the new going out 🙂
Become a volunteer in your local community
If you are not within the vulnerable category and not in self-isolation you can become part of the national Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK network and volunteer within your local community. Postcards are being put through doors to make contact with elderly and infirmed neighbours to offer them help, such as shopping and picking up a prescription.
The postcard idea was conceived by Becky Wass, a lecturer in Cornwall.
A visit from you, at a safe 2m distance away, maybe the only interaction that some people have and could well be the highlight of their day or week! You can use Audacity to set up a team with other volunteers and share lists to keep track of who is doing what tasks for which neighbour in need. #viralkindness
Become a penpal
Let’s go old school! For those without access to the internet write them a letter and pop it in the post (this is one service that is still in action) or through their letterbox. There have been some reports that the virus can be caught from letters and packages but the UKs Independent Fact Checking Charity claims that while it may be possible to pick up the virus from contaminated surfaces in general, “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. The main way the virus spreads is believed to be from person-to-person contact and the best way to stop the spread of the virus remains to regularly wash your hands with soap and water for twenty seconds.”
So put pen to paper and get in touch with someone and let them know they have not been forgotten about. Some care homes are putting post boxes out so that local children can become penpals to the more vulnerable members of the community. Encourage your children to get involved or pick up a pen yourself and make contact with those that will be feeling the loss of regular family visits and help them to feel less isolated.
If ever there was a time to come together and support each other then this is it. While this social distancing strategy separates us physically from one another, it may be that through all this talking, writing, communicating and volunteering, we have never been closer and the strength of our communities that we build during this time may have more positive far-reaching effects that live way beyond the end of this pandemic.