How to visit grandparents safely

Visiting grandparents or other older adults requires some planning
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Visits with grandparents can provide bonding memories for the whole family. Yet, amid the pandemic, simple family vacations and get-togethers have become complicated quagmires, leaving restricted seniors lonely. Recently, my neighbor mentioned how tough it has been to not hug her grandchild. While physical gestures of affection may be limited for many, there are still ways to visit grandparents safely.

As a precautionary reminder, the CDC states 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths were U.S. citizens 65 or older [1]Read more about older adults and COVID-19 at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/older-adults.html . Older adults are more vulnerable when fighting the virus, but anyone can catch it. If you plan to visit grandparents or older family members, consider when, where, and how you can reduce their risk of infection.

When is it safe to visit grandparents

There are many questions to consider before going to grandma’s. Has anyone been exposed recently? Are the older adults viewed as high-risk due to chronic illnesses? If your children are heading back to in-person school, consider that as well.

The Gerontological Society of America created a comprehensive printout for older adults to decide if and when they should go outside. Family members may want to review it as well. Each person and situation is unique, so communication is vital to make sure everyone is comfortable with the visit.

Walking outside with grandparents is memorable and less risky
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Where could you meet

While the weather is fine, it will be much easier to spend time together outdoors. Dorothea Vafiadis, Director of NCOA’s Center for Healthy Aging, suggests the “safest approach is staying outdoors for optimal ventilation and keeping 6 feet apart”.

Consider taking walks together on trails or by the water. Search local conservation groups or state parks if you don’t already have a family favorite. You could work in the garden together or even have a movie night in the yard.

When you meet, make sure everyone maintains good hygiene by sanitizing items often and hand washing. It’s also been recommended to wear a mask around those not living with you. It was a good reminder for me since I drive my grandfather to our community garden. He wears his mask the whole time, but I usually only put mine on once we leave the car. I’ll be masked up when I see him later today! 

Other ways to socialize

Depending on the age of grandchildren and the technological skills of the grandparents, family bonding can happen without in-person contact. If the older adults are considered too high-risk for physical visits, keep using the video messengers that we’ve increasingly added to our daily lives.

Some virtual ideas include
  • Read a book together
  • Play games
  • Cook together
  • Help with homework
  • Sing
  • Plus, visit Romper for many more virtual suggestions
Other ways to stay connected
  • Family dinners with Zoom or similar app
  • Send pictures and videos of everyday life as well as big events
  • Drive by the house
  • Talk through the window (we do this one a lot)
  • Write letters (hopefully USPS will still be around to deliver!)

Each family is different

While our choices may differ, we all want to stay connected to our loved ones. With a little preparation, we can all visit grandparents safely. In my case, I try to call my grandmother, who lives across the country regularly. We haven’t managed more than one video call, but I’ll keep trying! My other grandparents live one town over. I speak with them through the window or visit the community garden with Poppy.

In the past few weeks, I’ve blogged about senior food security and contactless sources for food during the pandemic. Although having enough to eat is critical in keeping older adults healthy and nourished, their emotional well-being is just as important. Spending time with family and friends helps to ease the stress and anxiety of this challenging time. Next week, I’d like to share another post about the dangers of loneliness in seniors and how they can engage with limited health risks. 

Have you found a safe and stress-free way to visit the older adults in your life?

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