The Case for Connection: How the GreatCall Community Comes Together

As we cross the one-month mark of Shelter in Place orders and lockdowns across the country, GreatCall is proud to support our extensive community of older adults, caregivers, friends and family by making it easier to stay connected. Our customers have approached this period of quarantine in many ways, utilizing different resources, creative outlets, and keeping up with loved ones to maintain normalcy and positivity. Luckily, in 2020, we have more resources than ever to keep us connected and safe.

GreatCall surveyed a number of its community members through a Facebook post to see what was making a difference to their lives in this “new normal”. What we received were over 1,200 responses around what these members of our community are doing to stay close without getting close during these uncertain times.

Here’s an overview of what our community is doing to stay connected, and what has worked best for them:

How are you staying connected to your family and loved ones during this time of social distancing?

The consensus was that physical and social distancing were two different things- overall, respondents are using this time to communicate more than ever before. “A friend of mine and I have started using the term ‘physical distancing’ rather than social distancing,” said one group member. One of GreatCall’s missions is to keep older adults connected, as many do not have family or loved ones nearby. While physical distancing is constantly a barrier to connection, we do not need to find ourselves less social. One respondent said she writes one handwritten letter and calls one friend each day. Another packs a lunch and finds a neutral location where she and a friend can eat their lunches from their respective cars, keeping a distance but maintaining connection. Many respondents are not letting these regulations get in the way of their connections, adding that it’s not “socially distancing,” but instead “distant socializing.”

How are you maintaining a routine and avoiding isolation?

Mental health experts recommend maintaining a schedule to provide structure and organization to your day. Although important to stay connected with others, it’s also critical to check in with yourself and make sure you are taking the necessary steps to avoid isolation and keep yourself active. Many respondents said the key is staying positive and maintaining a good attitude. Some said they are leaning on their communities, whether it be a church service moved online, virtual happy hours with friends, or gathering from a safe distance with neighbors and friends. Others are taking advantage of additional solitude and using it as a time for new hobbies: learning a new craft, using smart assistants to play music, setting daily intentions, or doing things like crossword puzzles to keep the mind active. No matter the route, many are forming new routines to strengthen connections and keep from feeling lonely.

How are you utilizing technology to stay connected with loved ones?

Many respondents highlighted how thankful they were for the increased adoption of technology. Had this occurred 10 or more years ago, many older adults would not have the same degree of technological skills or options to keep them connected. Whether it be regular phone calls with friends, a Zoom birthday party, or reading a bedtime story to their grandchildren over FaceTime, technology is keeping members of the GreatCall community more connected than ever before.

Even the Facebook respondents acknowledged and thanked each other for the sense of community they felt. Technology has instilled new and previously-unimaged ways to foster a sense of community during times of separation.

As we navigate this unprecedented time, it is more important than ever to find human connection with others . Through the GreatCall community, we’ve learned new ways to stay connected, actively move away from times of isolation, and become closer (emotionally, not physically) to those around us. As one user put it, “We are probably realizing how important we all are to one another. Stay connected the best you can- it’s so very important.”

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