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Social distancing doesn’t mean social disconnecting

AARP Ohio Director Holly Holtzen suggests checking in on older neighbors who might be isolated, and sending cards, letters, magazines or other items to loved ones at assisted-living facilities.
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COLUMBUS — Feeling cut off from the outside world can be depressing and lonely, especially for older Ohioans, but social distancing doesn't have to mean social disconnecting.

With Ohio under a stay-at-home order and senior centers closed, AARP Ohio Director Holly Holtzen recommends making a plan to stay connected with loved ones.

This might mean setting up daily communication online through FaceTime, Google Home, Skype or with a phone call or text.

Holtzen says there are many resources online to keep people both physically and mentally engaged.

"There are things that don't require you getting out of the house — whether it’s exercise or online learnings and podcasts, which you could do on your cellphone," she said. "Even museums and libraries have virtual tours."

During the pandemic, Holtzen also suggests checking in on older neighbors who might be isolated, and sending cards, letters, magazines or other items to loved ones at assisted-living facilities.

At AARP.org, there's an online learning platform with free courses and trivia, and a Get Moving series of exercise videos.

The organization also just launched AARP Community Connections, an online tool that connects folks who would like to have a periodic friendly phone call from one of its volunteers, such as Millie Sretenovic, an AARP volunteer in Northeast Ohio. She said the volunteers understand the importance of staying in touch with friends and family.

"Being part of the volunteer community, I'm just so grateful," Sretenovic said. "I get emails, I get texts, I get phone calls, 'How are you doing Millie? Do you need anything?' And I've been doing the same for some of the other volunteers."

Holtzen said it's also important during the pandemic to protect yourself and loved ones from scammers who are trying to take advantage of the crisis.

"Be wary of people pushing products that promise to cure COVID-19," she warns. "Also be suspicious of some people asking for donations. Have them send the information by mail, and defer that decision until you have a chance to research that particular organization."

Holtzen said about 11,000 AARP volunteers nationwide work on a regular basis on programs to keep older adults engaged, through social and educational activities. Find out how to get involved by emailing ohvolunteers@aarp.org.



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