In mid-March, many students saw their spring break trips cancelled or disrupted. Parents are juggling the new reality of working from home while also managing child care. And if you’re retired or planning for retirement, you could be facing a unique set of challenges.
Aside from the valid health risks and concerns associated with the spread of coronavirus, you may be experiencing an increased impact on your lifestyle.
Economic news may have you feeling concerned about your retirement investment plan. Perhaps you’ve had to cancel a trip or rethink booking a cruise. You may be suddenly isolated from family in high risk areas, or missing out on play dates with the grandkids.
Boredom: The Hidden Side Effect of Coronavirus
Now that social distancing and shelter-in-place are a reality for the coming weeks or months, many of us have extra time on our hands. Maybe too much.
For older adults, and especially retirees, the risk of boredom, and even loneliness, are heightened by social distancing measures. The American Association of Psychology and other sources suggest that loneliness has its own health consequences, such as depression and higher risk of chronic illness.
The good news is, communities and families are banding together now more than ever - to take care of each other’s daily needs and to stay connected. Here are some strategies to stay in touch while you’re staying at home and keeping a distance.
Strategies for Maintaining Social Connectedness During Social Distancing
We are fortunate to live in a world where social distancing doesn’t have to mean total isolation. Technology offers many ways to stay connected with friends, family, and the world around us.
The strategies we will outline are helpful for staying connected now - during the trying times of this coronavirus crisis - but also after this time passes. As financial advisors, we work with many retirees and people in the retirement planning phase. Thus, we recognize the importance of maintaining and developing social connectedness during this third stage of life.
1. Check in Regularly With Friends and Family
The CDC suggests that we all stay at home, stock up on food and medications, and limit contact with others when possible - but that doesn’t include web or phone contact. You can still:
- Schedule a weekly FaceTime or virtual group chats to stay connected with family. Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp all have video calling capabilities.
- If you haven’t already, start a family group chat via text or WhatsApp. This can be a great hub for sending and receiving pictures of the grandkids and sharing daily updates. You could even initiate a joke thread to keep things light.
- Plan a “virtual happy hour” with other retired friends or a morning coffee chat.
2. Keep Moving
If social distancing measures are keeping you from your normal gym workout or your favorite group exercise class, you’re not alone. We are confident we’ll all be back to those activities soon enough, but in the interim, the internet is filled with online alternatives. The mental and physical benefits of exercise are more important now than ever.
- You’ll find lots of free exercise videos on YouTube or Vimeo. Many are geared towards seniors, like this Slow and Gentle Yoga class from Yoga with Adrienne. Or, simply go to YouTube.com and search for the type of workout you want.
- Mobile apps are also great for finding workouts to help keep active while we’re stuck inside. Many are cheap, free, or offer a free trial. Check out Freeletics, Peloton, DownDog or 8Fit.
- Do you have an old weight set sitting around or some workout DVDs you haven’t touched in a while? Time to dust them off and get moving.
- If you can safely do so in a place away from others, take a walk outside and take in some fresh air.
3. Make a Travel Wishlist for the Future
We’re not suggesting you buy any plane tickets right now; travel is a definite no-go until things calm down. However, studies show that planning a vacation brings as much joy as actually being on one. So if you have dreams of traveling once this crisis is behind us, you can start planning now:
- Make a travel wishlist of dream destinations.
- Research potential activities and accommodation in those destinations.
- Tally the potential costs and make a plan to set aside or save what you need.
With this method, you’ll have something to look forward to and be more prepared when the time actually comes. You’ll probably save some money, too.
4. Take Breaks From the News
As the situation with COVID-19 changes rapidly, we’re all doing our best to stay informed - and that’s certainly important. However, we must resist the urge of 24/7 news consumption, especially when it’s heavily tinged with messages of doom and gloom. Too much negativity takes a toll on our mental health.
As part of your self-care routine, schedule time each day to take a break from news about current events (including reports of market volatility) to do something light. When it’s time to disconnect, you can:
- Read a book
- Listen to a podcast
- Watch a funny movie
- Work on a craft project
- Call a friend
- Watch an inspiring Ted Talk
5. Go Exploring, Virtually
Do you dream of visiting the Louvre? Or maybe you’ve always wanted to visit Yellowstone? Thanks to the power of technology, you can explore many museums and parks online.
- There are over thirty national parks that you can tour virtually while sitting on your couch
- Animal lovers will love explore.org, which features live pre-recorded streams of hundreds of animals
- Some of the world’s top museums offer virtual tours and online exhibits
All of these options are completely free. So whether you just need to admire some natural beauty (beyond what you can see from outside your window) or you’re planning for a future RV or hiking trip, take advantage of these tours.
6. Give Back to the Community
We’re inspired by the ways this crisis is bringing families and communities together. There is no better time than now to get involved in charitable or service-based efforts. Here are a few ideas for ways you can do some good from the comfort of your own home.
- Project Linus is a non-profit organization that provides homemade blankets to children in need. They accept blankets of all kinds, including knitted, crocheted, or tied fleece
- The Magic Yarn Project donates homespun princess and pirate wigs for children with cancer
7. Tend to Your Retirement Plan
There’s no better time than the present to get your personal retirement plan in order. Whether you've been putting off retirement planning or you just need to revisit your financial planning checklist, take advantage of the slower pace to:
- Get clear about your financial goals for retirement
- Think about what’s important to you for your retirement
- Check your retirement-readiness with this 3-minute quiz
- Find a financial planner to help you create a solid, long-term plan for retirement
Finally, remember that this too shall pass, and the social connections you reinforce now will benefit you long after this is all a distant memory.