Successful social isolation needs purpose and routine
16 March 2020 | 0 Comment
Sitting in splendid social isolation in London, we see two phrases being used more than any other.
Firstly, “these are unprecedented times” and second, we need to invoke the “Blitz Spirit,” a reference to the nostalgia of the British pulling together during the second world war.
But, in these early days of the fight against Covid-19, there is a startling reality – not everyone has woken up to the reality of the dangers the virus poses – especially amongst one of the highest risk groups; the elderly. And there is a precedent; World War II.
You see, the “Blitz Spirit” is being invoked by our grandparents; people who today are in their 80’s and 90’s but who at the time of the second world war were only children or teenagers. And perception is key. When you read their first-hand accounts many talk of the excitement of wartime Britain. Their parents, the adults during the war (most long since passed), however, would recall the terror of raising a family in those dark days. But the real correlation is with how our great-great-grandparents (who were in their 70’s and 80’s in 1939) reacted – a generation who were born in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign.
The evidence is that many older adults simply ignored the government’s advice – at least during the first eight-month period at the start of World War II, which was known as “The Phoney War”.
For many older adults evacuated to the countryside, it was simply a time of great inconvenience. They were separated from their families and friends and were missing their routine and home environment. Thousands ignored government advice and simply drifted home. Despite months of harrowing war reports from France and Poland, for many Brits, the war only became real when Nazi bombers appeared over London in September 1940.
Today, older adults, like former Conservative London Mayoral Candidate Steven Norris are protesting that as a 74-year-old he’s fitter and healthier than many young people and won’t be dictated to by the government. The truth is, many older adults simply underestimate their vulnerability and fail to consider the impact on those around them.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, will the threat of the virus only hit home when ICU departments in the UK are overwhelmed and the death toll skyrockets?
So we’ve now entered a strange phase of our social response to Covid-19. One where young people overwhelmingly want to heed government advice to self-isolate and work from home – while many (not all) older adults view government measures as a disruption to their daily lives.
There are two key ways to protect the elderly and vulnerable while they are in isolation; give them purpose and routine. In order to build resilience amongst our population, we need to promote not only strength, mobility, good health, and an effective immune system, but also the more interesting components which are not physical at all; mental health and social connectivity.
And in order to preserve social distancing and keep older adults safe, technology needs to play an increased role.
Our sense of purpose needs to expand to a diversity of regular social connections; both talking to other people and generational diversity. We also need to maintain an outside interest unrelated to our health and current situation. So, whether it is stamp collecting, flower arranging or our church group we need to virtualize our routine and interests to deliver them safely into the homes of older adults.
And finally, we need to have a positive outlook on life – something which will become increasingly difficult when the news reports soaring death rates and tales of isolation. So, we need to build a digital way to deliver localised activities and content into the home.
At Kraydel we’re working with partners to deliver trials across the UK. And we’re hearing time and again that by delivering video calling and community through the Users own TV Kraydel has encouraged users to talk more frequently and from the comfort of their own sofa. Using their own TV has removed the anxiety and barriers that new technologies can call and instead has enabled people to develop a routine of staying connected to the people and activities they most love.