Digital services can thwart loneliness in people of advanced age
There are populations that depend heavily on public gatherings for social interaction, including people who visit senior centers for companionship and those in hospice or assisted living environments who yearn for interaction with visitors.
Often, older populations are not as tech savvy as the younger generations, making virtual meetings a challenge. Local facilities for the elderly worked quickly to create a digital environment, assisting seniors with the use of electronic devices.
Avow Hospice, for instance, quickly supplied iPads for clinicians to facilitate FaceTime between patients and their loved ones. The services AVOW has provided — art and music therapy, bereavement counseling and massage/physical therapies that can be self-administered (for example, pressing pressure points in the hands) are now provided digitally through AvowTV.
Trish Childress, director of supportive services, noted that senior volunteers are in need of these services, too, as many of them lose social connection when volunteering is on hold. In response, Avow launched a virtual book club for volunteers via Zoom and increased the number of volunteer support groups.
“For some of these folks, their outlet was coming to us,” Childress says. “Since we can’t utilize them during COVID-19, many are isolated at home alone, so the services have been a big help.”
Avow is also partnering with the Alzheimer’s Support Network to provide COVID-19 support groups for isolated seniors in several assisted living facilities.
Similarly, the Alzheimer’s Association, a global Alzheimer’s support organization, has partnered with the State of Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs to keep seniors connected with loved ones during social isolation through Project: VITAL (Virtual Inclusion Technology for All).
The project donates senior-friendly tablets from technology provider iN2L to nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout the state.
Naples Senior Center at JFCS (Jewish Family and Children’s Services) has also adjusted to the digital landscape by providing online services in place of in-person activities. To help seniors stay connected, the center hosts weekly Zoom meetings with subjects such as “History Talk,” “Sing Along” and “Guy Time.” The links to those meetings can be found at naplesseniorcenter.org/senior-center/.
Collier Senior Resources Golden Gate Senior Center continues to provide services for its members, connecting them with food banks, donations and financial assistance through the center’s main telephone number. Also provided are Zoom-based virtual sessions such as Zumba and yoga — classes that focus on breathing and relaxation. Support groups with licensed social workers are also provided. Learn more by calling 239-252-4541 or follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/CollierSeniorResources/?fref=ts.
As seniors are particularly vulnerable in this unprecedented time, it’s comforting to know that our community members are devising ways to keep them engaged to stave off the threat of loneliness.
Alone, But Not Lonely
High tech, soft touch and the prescience of Roy Orbison
"Only the lonely know the way I feel tonight. Only the lonely know this feeling ain’t right.”
Singer/songwriter Roy Orbison released those lyrics in 1961.
But Orbison could not possibly … not in his wildest imagination … have known how salient those words would be almost 60 years later when the world was locked down.
Loneliness is detrimental to human health, and our neighboring seniors, the most vulnerable to COVID-19, are equally devastated by social isolation. Those invested in our elderly population have devised loving ways to keep the blues at bay, thanks to technology that wasn’t available when they first heard Orbison’s melancholic melodies. With games and parties and gentle workouts, our elders are turning tech savvy faster than a 78 rpm.
As these activities brighten spirits, so do donations of time, talent and treasure to nonprofits blindsided by a 2020 they never saw coming. We’ve provided a list of some charities seeking help. We promise that giving will lift your spirits.
And speaking of lifted spirits, technology provides fantastic entertainment options that were incomprehensible when Orbison released “In Dreams” in 1963.
A candy-colored clown they call the sandman
Tiptoes to my room every night
Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper
“Go to sleep. Everything is all right.”
In the belief that everything will be all right, we’ve included a couple of “silver linings” folks in our community have spotted amid these dark clouds. Please share your life-enhancing illuminations with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
Staving Off Loneliness during COVID-19
Blue Zone’s Power 9 principles offer guidance for staying connected during a crisis
by Deb Logan
Witnessing losses from COVID-19 and the guidelines imposed to keep us safe seem to create a desire to catch up with friends from an earlier lifetime or invest more time into those we’ve sometimes taken for granted.
As we do this, it is also vital to reach out to neighbors, friends, family and colleagues who might be especially vulnerable to the risks associated with loneliness during these isolating times.
If loneliness persists, it is dangerous to our health. Former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy equated the risk of loneliness to smoking 12 cigarettes a day. A Brigham Young University study showed that people who identify as lonely or isolated are at a 26 to 32% higher risk of early death. And the threats of loneliness are further exacerbated when it coexists with anxiety.
An AARP Foundation study found more than a third of adults over age 45 are lonely. Enter COVID-19, and these numbers are certain to climb across all age groups.
Some of the tools Blue Zones Project Southwest Florida provides can help. The Power 9 well-being principles of Family First, Right Tribe, Belong and Purpose are particularly relevant to fending off loneliness.
Facetime or set up a Zoom meeting with family members across the world or even next door. If that’s not your style, call more often. Seeing a loved one’s face or hearing their voice can serve as a virtual hug during a time when so many are feeling especially unsettled.
Ask friends, neighbors and colleagues to become part of your support system, or as it is called in Okinawa, Japan, one of the original Blue Zones, your moai. Create some regular times during the week to touch base and share how you are doing. Moais can take virtual walks, eat healthy meals, watch a TV series, participate in a book club and so much more — together.
The greatest well-being
gift we can give ourselves
is to give to someone else.
Many faith-based organizations are offering online services. Invite someone to listen in virtually and then connect via phone after the service to talk about the inspirational messages you received. Have a discussion with someone about what you are grateful for. Keep a gratitude journal and reflect on it when loneliness and anxious or depressing thoughts pervade.
COVID-19 is definitely a triggering event, meaning it is one of those game-changing experiences that disrupts our daily focus and purpose. The usual things that give a person reason to wake up in the morning may not be as tangible right now, but there are ways to adapt to our current situation. If you normally volunteer at an organization, ask if you can help in a virtual way.
Consider making it your purpose to reach out to those who are particularly vulnerable right now. Does someone who is alone need someone to talk to, or could they use help with getting their groceries, medications or pet food in a safe manner? The greatest well-being gift we can give ourselves is to give to someone else.
To practice these and other Power 9 well-being principles, consider the following or go the Blue Zones Project Virtual Power 9, http://bluezonesproject.hs-sites.com/southwestflorida/virtual-wellness-opportunities.
Deb Logan is Blue Zones Project SWFL’s executive director. She has more than 30 years of experience in health and wellness, and about as many years living in Naples.
Today’s Silver Linings
Bringing live theater and family to the homefront
From clearer streams to improved air quality, from starting an at-home exercise routine to perfecting a recipe, silver linings are everywhere, as stay-at-home orders inspire people to get creative on so many fronts.
For husband and wife professional actors Rachel Burttram and Brendan Powers, a nonopening turned into a different kind of show.
“As ensemble members at Florida Repertory Theatre, we were just one day away from opening ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2,’ Brendan says. “Then, management made the difficult decision to suspend programming.
“As we prepared to shelter in place, Rachel had an idea to transform our back closet into a makeshift theater we call Tiny_Theatre.
“Utilizing a string of Christmas lights, an IKEA curtain, duct tape and an old tripod, we returned to the philosophy that theater only requires actors, the text and an audience,” he continues.
“Rachel and I are the actors, reading from scripts by A-list playwright pals and selected materials submitted by writers of all walks of life. The works are rehearsed no more than twice, and quirky elements add to the appeal.
Facebook Live affords us the opportunity to have “talkbacks” after the read to engage with the ‘audience,’ which people seem to really get a kick out of.”
The free Facebook Live program, now with about 1,000 followers, appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The “house” opens at 8:55 p.m. If you miss the live feed, the archival footage will be available for an undetermined period of time on the #tiny_theatre page.
“Our #tiny_theatre is in no way meant as a replacement to a live theatrical experience,” Brendan emphasizes. “We are career, professional actors and take the art form very seriously.
“Reading plays out of our closet is hardly the equivalent of a fully realized, fully rehearsed professional production. This is a tool for us and for playwrights, writers and theater lovers to satisfy our need for artistic endeavors and a sense of community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Support theater however you can,” Brendan urges.
“Keep the arts alive!”
Gliding Back Bays
College students had a unique spring semester, to say the least.
“It was never in my thought bank that the final semester in college would be spent living at home with mom and dad, especially in a place where I had never lived,” says Trish Schranck, now of Bonita Springs.
“Luckily, living in Southwest Florida does have its perks, and being able to kayak from your backyard into the mangroves can take away tensions of this challenging time.”
Spending more time outdoors and on the water is definitely a silver lining.
Dancing Through Time
Online dance classes help pass the time while staying active
A fun, active way to step into a different era is to study dances from decades past.
DanceWithNancy.com offers online instruction and entertainment via tutorials for standard ballroom dances, country dances, themed dances, Latin dances and wedding dances. Orchestra music from The Great American Songbook, That Lindy Hop and Doug the Jitterbug with the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and other swing bands provides the backdrop for a fun, throw-back activity.
Dances can be learned and practiced in the living room for your exercise and entertainment, as you keep safe social distance. Practice and entertainment sessions on the site are free and the instruction prices range from free to $2.99 per downloadable segment.
Tutorials are offered for solo and partner dances, and no special fitness level or previous dance training is required. DanceWithNancy.com.
Mighty Mary and the Techno Challenged
Celebrating another monumental birthday for Mom with a little help from technology
by Kathy Grey
“So, I will initiate the call. Be ready at 2. Mel, be ready at 1,” Rachel wrote.
Out of context, it sounds like something from a futuristic thriller. But the message was a group text to my mom’s four kids, ages 60-68.
We were all entering a new world, but the greatest aspect of espionage was placing a camera in our newly minted, 97-year-old mother’s hands in celebration of her birthday.
It would be a call to remember.
I refer to my mom as Mighty Mary. She lives in an assisted living facility for veterans up north. In her 90s, Mighty Mary defied death by pneumonia more times than I can remember, which earned her the “mighty” title.
But Mighty Mary has never embraced technology. In fact, she holds considerable disdain for it.
Her four kids and their families were supposed to be with her in New England, celebrating her 97th that Friday in April, but things being what they are, we canceled our flights and hotel reservations.
My brother learned that the veteran’s home had generously offered to facilitate a FaceTime video chat in honor of our mom’s birthday. Turned out, her kids were new to this FaceTime thing, too. We had a sense of foreboding, realizing that this long-distance celebration had the potential of turning into “Mission Impossible.”
Miraculously, the calls came through and we were all connected, except for the birthday girl, whose VA-assisted connection was left in Mighty Mary’s hands. We couldn’t see her. The dialogue became pressing.
“Mom! Push the Help button!”
“I don’t see a Help button,” Mighty Mary replied.
“Not on the phone, Mom. Call an attendant!”
The cacophony of urgent instructions from her kids kept Mighty Mary in the dark, literally and figuratively. After a few rounds of, “No, don’t touch that button!” a kindly nurse reentered her living quarters and set the phone straight.
Mighty Mary in 1923, the year of her birth
Ah … there we were.
Mighty Mary settled into the “new normal” probably better than the rest of us as we celebrated her 97th birthday
“I never thought I’d live to be this old,” my mom said. (She offers this wisdom pretty frequently.)
My siblings commented that they were looking at the top of my head as I scrambled, phone in hand, to produce the original photo of my mom in her Christening dress. There she was: baby Mary, in the year of her birth: 1923.
We took our devices around our homes, sharing our spouses, dogs and kids, and probably not in that order. Mom sat quietly, enjoying the show and absorbing the new technology.
Toward the end of the virtual birthday celebration, Rachel produced a cupcake with a lit candle. My brother played the guitar. We all sang happy birthday to Mighty Mary, and Rachel blew out the candle.
It was our way of celebrating another monumental year for mom — this one in the time of coronavirus. Although Mighty Mary never expected to turn 97 and couldn’t possibly imagine such a birthday celebration — device in hand, surrounded virtually by her family — she felt honored and blessed, grateful to us and the veteran’s home staff who made it possible.
That’s Quarantainment 2!
Keeping you engaged in the world beyond your four walls
Curl up with a novel or enjoy the arts and a good Netflix series. Here are some avenues for your “quarantainment.”
Although Artis—Naples has temporarily closed its doors, the show must go on. The musicians of the Naples Philharmonic have been posting videos of their at-home performances to the Naples Philharmonic Musicians YouTube page. Savor the sounds of the orchestra at youtube.com/channel/UCJpV2aIOTOkDPQhVhG42mEA.
Center for the Arts Bonita Springs
The Center for the Arts Bonita Springs is offering free weekly classes for students. Classes include Monologue Mondays, Technique Tuesdays, Who’s Who Wednesdays, Readthrough Thursdays and Virtual Cabaret Fridays. The lessons require preregistration to get the meeting codes. All are conducted through Zoom. artcenterbonita.org/adulted/Virtual.pdf.
Everglades National Park
The Everglades National Park is holding a photography contest for the best Everglades photos. The competition will be held until June 1. To enter, post your photo on Instagram using the hashtag #EvergladesPhotoContest.
Visit the Everglades National Park Facebook page for updates on the park and to learn more about one of the largest wetlands in the world. facebook.com/EvergladesNationalPark/.
“Unorthodox” on Netflix
Loosely based on an autobiography by a woman who rejected her Hasidic roots, “Unorthodox” captures the story of a married 19-year-old who flees her ultra-Orthodox life in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and redeems her German citizenship in Berlin. She seeks freedom via a scholarship to a music academy, where students her age guide her through modern life. The four-episode series features stunning cinematography, intricate costuming, meticulous attention to cultural detail and is the first Netflix series to be spoken primarily in Yiddish. netflix.com/title/81019069.
“The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery
Muriel Barbery’s French novel takes you into the thoughts of Renèe, an unsightly concierge who works
to maintain that image, and Paloma, a young, wealthy girl who lives among the Parisian elite. The story is told through philosophy, thoughts and theories that sew themselves into the greater ideas of friendship and self-identity. In challenging times when life can feel taxing, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” reminds us to cherish “the odd moment of beauty, where time is no longer the same.”
in this issue
Here are ways you can help our community’s most vulnerable during COVID-19
Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to help someone else in need. The following are some ways to help high-risk populations as they cope with challenges of COVID-19.
Hospitals and Health Care
Local hospitals have advised that, while it may not seem as personal, financial gifts are the more efficient and impactful way to help.
Donations allow the purchase of much-needed medical equipment, like ventilators, N-95 masks and protective gowns. The average cost of health care workers’ personal protection equipment (N95 masks, gown and face shields) is $100 a day, according to Lee Health.
Aside from medical equipment, donations are used to purchase iPads, so that patients who are alone in the hospital can speak to their families face-to-face.
“Increased technology and technical tools have emerged as a real need during and beyond this crisis,” says Amy Frith, a director at Lee Health. “Donor funding is providing virtual hugs and goodbyes. The (Lee Health) foundation has purchased more than 70 iPads to provide critical communication for families who can't visit loved ones … Sadly, for some families, it’s how they’ve had to say their final goodbyes.”
In-kind donations of N-95 masks, gloves, homemade cloth face masks, hand sanitizers, disinfectants and cleaning supplies are also a great help. To learn more visit LeeHealthStrong.org, nchmd.org/Philanthropy-subsite/philanthropy/how-to-help/donate-today, and https://www.physiciansregional.com/covid-19.
“Home is not safe for everyone,” says Linda Oberhaus, CEO of the Shelter for Abused Women & Children. “For victims of domestic violence, isolation at home with an abuser puts their lives at risk.”
The shelter’s 24-hour crisis line is available to assist with safety planning, counseling and support services, and their emergency shelter remains open with bed space available to victims in abusive relationships.
Financial donations help keep the shelter operating, as do gifts of clothing, diapers and personal supplies.
Most importantly, Oberhaus urges, be vigilant about signs of abuse.
“Your assistance is critical to saving lives,” Oberhaus says. “If you see something, say something. Call 911. If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, call the shelter’s 24-hour crisis line at 239-775-1101. Victims can also email email@example.com to access information and assistance.”
Though people with stable jobs, money in the bank and investments will still be hit hard by the economic downturn of this pandemic, it is the poor who will be most affected, says St. Matthew’s House CEO Vann Ellison.
St. Matthew’s House serves some of the community’s poorest and most vulnerable with programs for fighting hunger, homelessness, addiction and poverty.
“This isn’t going to be over anytime soon,” Ellison says. “Even if life went back to normal tomorrow, we’ll still be facing increased need years from now. The poorest people are affected the longest.”
All people living through this pandemic are vulnerable to experiencing fear and anxiety for the rest of their lives, he explains, illustrating that the Great Depression impacted society generations ago, when anxiety amplified frugality and food insecurity.
Immigrant families who became American citizens in search of economic opportunity may now be facing empty shelves and wallets that mirror the circumstances they fled in their home countries.
“There’s a need for resources, support and encouragement for helping people find meaning and engagement in the world around us,” Ellison says.
The best gift for St. Matthew’s House is a financial donation. Food items such as shelf-stable proteins are also appreciated.
Ellison encourages parents and grandparents to involve children in their giving as a way to help them cope through this crisis. By helping others, they’ll know they have the power to make a positive impact as the world begins to heal from this crisis.
As unemployment continues to rise, food pantries are in dire need of vital donations. Below are several organizations seeking and accepting lifesaving food and amenities.
Bonita Springs Assistance Office
5300 Bernwood Drive, Unit 6, Bonita Springs;
Meals of Hope: mealsofhope.org;
2221 Corporation Boulevard, Naples; 239-537-7775
Salvation Army Naples salvationarmyflorida.org/naples;
3050 Horseshoe Drive N., Building B, Suite 260, Naples; 239-210-4009
St. Matthew’s House: stmatthewshouse.org;
2001 S. Airport Road, Naples; 239-774-0500
St. Vincent de Paul Society: svdpnaples.org;
4451 Mercantile Ave., Naples; 239-775-1667
Meals on Wheels: mealsonwheelsofbonitasprings.org/;
9751 Bonita Beach Road SE, Bonita Springs;
Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center: catholiccharitiesdov.org/charities/
3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples; 239-793-0059
Bonita Springs Center: catholiccharitiesdov.org/charities/bonita-springs-center; 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs; 239-390-2928
Food Angels: 13510 Tamiami Trail N., Naples;
The International Ministry God is Love (MIDA): 11965 Collier Blvd, Naples; 239-465-6200
Renew Food Pantry: 11560 Tamiami Trail East, Naples; 239-774-1802