Sometimes we have to isolate ourselves from others – illness, epidemics, security issues…
But that doesn’t mean we have to isolate ourselves socially. On the contrary, now we need connection – and that’s different from contact – more than ever.
How can we stay connected with others if we’re holed up at home and cannot go out?
Some of us are very social, and being cut off from others is painful. For others, who are more reserved, this is an opportunity to reach out and connect with others.
FIRST, THE OBVIOUS: PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY CLOSE TO YOU
We KNOW all this, but this is a good time to remember things we may have let go or forgotten because of our busy lives, things like…
- Reach out to your friends and family – it’s a great time to renew ties with estranged family members, put feuds to rest and make a list of friends you love but simply haven’t ‘had time’ for in your busy life.
- Use whatever technology is available to you: phone, of course, but also Skype, WhatsApp, email (and by the way, it’s a great time to clear your Inbox!)
- Don’t want to go all the way and engage personally? Send someone an electronic greeting card – even one that says “Hi, thinking of you!”
Think about it: Is there a young family member you could read a story to at night via Skype?
Or if you’re missing your friends, why not have a virtual dinner party? I did that with a friend who had moved to Istanbul: she had dinner, I had dinner, and we simply kept our iPads on throughout the meal (almost like being there!)
I wasn’t quite sure where to start, so like every good plan, it started with a list:
- I made a list of close friends and family
- Then I made a list of people I knew, in person or online, whom I’d like to get to know better
- I looked at how often I’d seen/talked/emailed them and compared that with how often I thought I SHOULD have done so
- and I started reaching out: Facebook messenger to say Hi, email to send a fun photo, WhatsApp message just to check in…
AND NOW, THE REST OF THE WORLD
Being physically isolated offers us an incredible opportunity to break some of those social barriers and enlarge our group of friends.
Here are some places we can meet up not-in-person and ideas of what to do once we’ve been politely introduced!
(And a proviso, of course: this is online, and this is Planet Earth, and not everything is always as it seems so please take your safety precautions when ‘meeting’ someone online: no private details, no street address, nothing that might leave you open to an unsafe situation! But then… you know that, right?)
Let’s get Facebook out of the way
Many people dislike Facebook, and yes, there’s a lot to dislike. But Facebook does have a way of bringing people together and that can’t be neglected.
- Special interest groups: Are you a digital nomad? A stamp collector? A miniaturist? Whatever your passion or pleasure, you’ll probably find a Facebook group where you can interact with like-minded passionates.
- Do you have a condition? A health issue, an addiction, a state of mind? Again, you’ll find a Facebook group where you can share your concerns or help uplift others.
- Are you alone, with no support system? Not everyone has a partner or family and right now, being able to reach out to others may help us feel part of a broader community. I came across Elder Orphans for people who are on their own – more than 9000 potential friends!
- Looking for women over 60 with whom to interact? Check out the Sixty and Me group, about everything under the sun, from fashion and makeup to travel and finance.
- Want to start daydreaming about travel? There’s Solo in Style for women over 50 or Over 60 Solo Travelers.
Just type your special interest into the Facebook Search bar at the top left and – Search!
Other social media platforms
You may not like social media in any shape or form – not just a Facebook dislike, but EVERYTHING. Have you tried them all? There may be one you like! Where I’m on social media, the links will take you to my own social media pages.
- Facebook – dealt with above
- Twitter – interact on any and all issues
- Instagram – showcase your life visually
- Pinterest – use it as a search engine, as you would Google
- YouTube – the best place for ‘how-to’ videos and free entertainment
- Tumblr – quirky and addictive
- LinkedIn – for business-oriented exchanges
- Reddit – all about news, and what members think are most important
You can also watch Netflix with friends through the Google Chrome extension Netflix Party.
Special interest forums and social networking
For those of you who don’t like Facebook, remember those ancient online forums? Well, they’re still kicking and some of them are incredibly popular and active!
- A cool list of 20 great forums for over 50s
- Senior Forums, an active online community for baby boomers and seniors
- Seniors Only Club, yet another active forum
Or just head for Google and search for “best online forums for women over 50” or any combination thereof. While most forums are mixed, many have women’s sections and issues specifically relevant to women.
There are also plenty of forums for special interests and again, just use your browser’s Search function. You can find forums for dog or cat lovers, book collectors, knitters and crocheters, dieters, gardeners, business women, history buffs… you name it, it’s out there.
One of my faves for books (I’m a voracious reader) is Goodreads – you’ll be able to chat about your best reads to your heart’s content.
And here’s something else I enjoyed tremendously: practising a foreign language via Skype. I did this through My Language Exchange, where people post the language they ‘own’ and the one they want to learn, and set up times to talk. I remember looking forward to Monday nights years ago, when I would Skype with a Brazilian gentleman – a retired insurance salesman – who wanted to work on his English, and I on my Brazilian Portuguese. Not only did I learn the language, but all about middle-class life in a mid-sized Brazilian city, a peek into a foreign culture I’d never have had otherwise.
How to help others
It’s not only about keeping ourselves busy and connected, but also about others. There are plenty of people out there who may need our help and while we cannot do it in person, why not take some time online to help someone less fortunate?
- In the USA, try Create the Good
- Catchafire, which has a mix of in-person and ONLINE jobs
- Are you a citizen scholar? Try the Smithsonian if you want to transcribe fascinating historical documents or Project Gutenberg if you want to help by reading books
- If you’ve always wanted to help promote human rights, Amnesty International needs help
- Do you speak another language fluently? You can contribute to humanitarian aid through Translators Without Borders
- Research with Zooniverse
- The School in the Clouds, if you want to answer kids’ ‘big questions’ via Skype
- If you’re a professional with a degree and plenty of experience, you can volunteer online with the United Nations – projects around the world need your help!
Or call your favorite charity and ask: Is there anything you can do from home?
Sharing and staying upbeat
That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun because it takes a bit of everything to make a life. So if you find something that makes you chuckle, send it along to your friends. Sometimes you don’t even need to say a word – a funny picture will speak for itself.
And if you see an uplifting story, filled with love and support and compassion, send it around to those you love – there’s still not enough of that going around.
NOT KEEN TO INTERACT?
You don’t have to. You may be happy to be at home alone. Or perhaps you have family with you and have company. But after a few days, the routine may get to you and you may be looking for something new and different to capture your attention.
Here are a few ideas of things you might do – chances are you’ve already got most of these on your list but… just in case (plus it’s a list and I love those!)
Time to read
- Use your Kindle but if you don’t have one, you can download the Kindle App to your phone or tablet (but yes, you’ll still have to buy or borrow Kindle format books from Amazon)
- Time to Marie Kondo your bookshelves! How many books do you have lying around in nooks and crannies that you haven’t read yet?
- And of course, there’s the big wide Internet. It’s a great time to read blogs (here’s my list of best women’s travel blogs – please do read them because travel blogs are suffering right now!)
- The New York Public Library is allowing you to download 300,000 of its books (three at a time of course)
- Don’t feel like reading but still want to delve into a book? Try Audiobooks… I’ve used these for years to enjoy literature when I didn’t have time to read.
Go art crazy and express yourself
We do love art but unless we’re traveling and headed for a museum, we see precious little art. How many times do we make time for ballet, concerts or opera when we’re home? Even if we do, it’s not something we’ll be able to do for the forseeable future but, thankfully, there are alternatives.
- Many museums have started putting their collections online and virtual tours, while not as perfect as the real thing, will make do if we can’t leave the house. Here’s a list from People Magazine along with this selection from The Art Newspaper.
- And another collection of museums…
- How about streaming your favorite Broadway hits?
- Or this virtual tour of New York City’s street art?
And art isn’t just visual!
- If you love classical music, this YouTube channel has a mixture of everything from ballet to opera and classical concerts. Click, enlarge and relax.
- Love jazz? Kick off your slippers and listen to Jazz Radio. Don’t know your Bebop from your Hard Bop? Here’s a guide on All The Different Styles Of Jazz.
- Speaking of radio, I’m a great fan of oldies and vintage music so if you don’t listen to Internet Radio, now’s the time – you can listen to your favorite musical style all day, for free. Or listen to radio’s modern partner, a podcast!
- Or take a wander around NPR’s Arts and Life section…
- Here are some more modern live takes straight to your couch, or through Tidal.
- Now, you may not consider coloring an art, exactly, but if you’re stuck… check out these adult coloring books to travel from your armchair, or if you love your phone, these coloring apps.
And if you’re a writer…
- This might be the time to document your time away from travel, or to keep a journal!
- Or why not take a writing course online?
Once you’re online, your choices are limitless.
This may be your chance to learn something you’ve been wanting to but never had the opportunity or the time. Here are a few things you could do to get your gray cells into action:
- Take a language course or practise a language you already know but aren’t using as much as you’d like to
- Take one of Udemy’s 100,000 online courses, some for just $10, on anything ranging from self-help to photography or design
- Here are 10 websites that will teach you language, history, business… and pretty much everything else
- Online university courses at EdX (and their range of MOOC courses) or at MIT, a fascinating collection of graduate and undergraduate courses on things you didn’t even know existed!
- Improve your vocabulary by learning a new word a day or play a virtual word game with your friends
- Learn to meditate with one of the great apps (many of them have free samples, certainly enough to get you going, like Calm or Headspace)
- Have you ever been curious about your ancestry? This might be the perfect time to start working your way through Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com or Family Search.
- Music… I used to play a mean guitar and I’d love to try again! I also used to sing – perhaps I can try my hand at online Karaoke? Not to mention painting, which I once loved…
- How about keeping your brain in shape with Sudoku or crossword puzzles? Or some great apps you can download to keep your brain trained?
- If you’re hungry… head for YouTube or Instagram and find recipes from countries you’ve visited – or would love to visit.
Catch up with work
Those of us who work from home or have freelance careers have a unique opportunity to catch up on all those things we’ve let slide because… we’ve been working!
That includes such things as answering old emails, making plans and strategies, checking goals, leaning new skills (I’m still working on more and better video!), writing things that may only get published sometime in the future, giving ourselves time to brainstorm new ideas or approach new partners, and reaching out to people in our area of work who might not have had time for us before, but now, who knows?
Get your photos into shape
All those travels probably mean you have tons of photos stashed away on your phone, camera or stray flash drives. How long has it been since you backed them up? Catalogued them? Ordered them and deleted duplicates? Even better, this could be your chance to choose some of the best, and create and order your own photo book.
Please – don’t forget to exercise! When times get stressful, working up a bit of a sweat is one of the healthiest things you can do. Nothing too fancy though – this isn’t the time to twist or break something. If we’re used to moving around a lot on foot or bike, staying at home may mean we’ll slow down a bit – and that’s not necessarily good.
So let’s keep moving! We can…
- Use yoga videos to stay limber and keep breathing properly
- Dust off that Wii and find all the bits and pieces to make it work
- Download the app and play Just Dance, a video dance game
- Tend to your green thumb with some of these great ideas
- Get some air! In your yard, on your balcony, or even at your window.
Indulge in some self-pampering
While there’s something quite refreshing about not needing to wash your hair as often, put makeup on each morning or wear different clothes every day, there comes a point at which you may want to spoil yourself.
It may be time for some self-pampering: Give yourself an at-home mani-pedi, treat your hair or face to a mask, or indulge in an aromatherapy foot soak.
How many tasks have you left unfinished at home because you simply didn’t have the time? These might include…
- painting or rearranging a room or other DIY task that’s been hanging over your head
- filing away that stack of papers that has a “do Monday” yellow stickie on it
- order your cupboards because you may need to know where everything is!
- de-cluttering by sifting through your worn copy of Marie Kondo’s book
You can still travel
This might be a good time to review your bucket list because it may have changed… start thinking not only of where you want to travel but how, and begin researching!
You can also feel like you’re in a different country by listening to local radio: here’s an app that lets you sample local stations from around the world.
Some people are being innovative in keeping their spirits up and themselves occupied during the crisis: Have you seen all the Italians singing from their balconies? Here’s the video.
There’s nothing music cannot improve!