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Suggestions for helping senior citizens cope with ongoing pandemic

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- Senior citizens were at the forefront of a Mayo Clinic discussion Tuesday that centered on their health and wellbeing during the pandemic.

"We are diligent with observing our older adult family members who may be changing either in their behaviors, or their patterns, or their moods," said Dr. Ying Ying (Christina) Chen, a Mayo Clinic geriatrician internist.

"If they are irritable. If they are just not acting like the mom or dad that you know. I think, always weaving in with your health care team early is helpful so that we can address those underlying issues and remove the triggers that are negatively impacting us," she added.

Chen shared suggestions that senior citizens can do to improve mental morale, such as getting 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity, rest, and relaxing. She also said family and friends of seniors should take time to check up on them by calling or even writing letters.

"I went out to meet a new person for the first time, and I called before I went, they didn't answer. I decided to still go. I got to the house and it looked pretty dark. I called they still didn't answer. I went up to the door, and I could hear the TV on. I looked in the window and here they were on the floor. And they'd been there for two days," said Holly Brown, of Elder Network.

"It's things like that, that now remind me that I have to go with my gut," Brown said. "And I have to show up to these people's homes when I say I'm going to. Who knows how long it would have been before somebody else was coming."

Elder Network is a group that provides services and companionship for more than 70 senior citizens in Wabasha, Winona and Olmsted Counties.

"If you see anything out of the norm, go for it. Check in those windows, knock on the door, ring that bell. Kind of be persistent, because you never know what's on the other side," Brown said.

Brown also said the holiday season isn't always a "wonderful time of the year," for older adults. The pandemic is adding further loneliness for many.

"There's some people out there where this is just another day. But this time of year is very difficult for those maybe who are living alone or lonely," Brown said.

To prevent the feeling of loneliness for Elder Network clients, the group has a pen pal system and delivers holiday gifts.

"I just hope overall they know that they're not forgotten. These little items that we are able to bring to them not only help them in their everyday needs, but give a little pick me up and something joyful for them to either work on. Whether it's Sudoku or crosswords puzzle, or a journal or calendar that they can enjoy all year, or the treats," Brown said.

Brown said the group is always looking for volunteers.

"Being able to do a little kindness for someone else is really what the season is all about," she said.

KaMaria Braye

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