Dear Ann Cannon • As an older person in the “vulnerable population” regarding the coronavirus, what can I do to still feel a part of the world? I feel as though by not doing much (self-quarantining), I am losing touch with people and losing my feeling of being a part of humanity. I do make telephone calls and bake things for my neighbors once in a while, but it’s not easy being part of this group. Others seem to avoid me while they are social distancing, and I’ve been told by some that they’re frightened to be around people in my age category.
— Help Me, Please
Dear Help Me • I think the isolation engendered by the pandemic has been one of the hardest things for many people to deal with. You’re not alone, is what I’m saying here. So, what can you do to feel like you’re a part of a larger community? I put your question out there on my Facebook page and many of the suggestions from readers had to do with technology. So. How comfortable are you with technology, anyway? If you’re not, this may be a good time to up your game on that front.
Here’s the thing. Technology provides a variety of ways for you to connect with others. Take Facebook, for example. For all its problems, Facebook still allows you to keep up with old friends and possibly make new ones. And then there are the video chat platforms like Zoom that give you an opportunity to have face-to-face encounters. And while Marco Polo doesn’t have the immediate back-and-forth that Zoom offers, it still allows you to stay in touch and see one another in the flesh. Or in the video flesh, at least.
Here’s an interesting idea. One reader recommended a website called Bigandmini.org, which connects young people with seniors who volunteer for video chats to decrease loneliness and isolation, to form bonds, and to share stories unique to their own generations.
But technology isn’t the only way to stay connected. You can do something as low-tech as writing cards and letters to friends. You could also call a local rest home and ask if they would be willing to give you the names of people you could write to, so that they have the pleasure of receiving mail. Or you can initiate social distancing gatherings. My 88-year old mother, for example, has picnics on her patio with friends on a regular basis.
I don’t mean to overwhelm you with suggestions. But I do hope that something here works for you.
Dear Ann Cannon • My family gave me one of those “spit in a tube” DNA test kits for my birthday. I was a bit apprehensive, but I did it anyway. Since I received my results, my life has been a roller coaster. My heritage is missing a huge ethnic piece I was ALWAYS told was there … and I’ve discovered a nephew that no one has EVER known about. I’m stewing over whether to advance contact with this new family member or whether to tell my sibling I know about it. In the meantime, I’ve discovered this new addition to the family tree was indicted for fraud more than a decade ago. What should I do?
— Surprised by the Results
Dear Surprised • You’re certainly not the first person to have his/her world upended by the results of a DNA test. And while those commercials on television always make people look happy to discover they’re Scottish instead of German or whatever, the truth is that it can be REALLY hard to accommodate new and surprising family information.
As for your case in particular, I can’t tell you what to do, of course, but I think you should ask yourself the following question: What would you actually achieve by reaching out to your “new” nephew and/or sibling? Would the results be worth it to you and your family? Take a serious look at your response and then proceed (cautiously?) from there.
Best of luck to you.