As the global coronavirus pandemic unfolded over the past year, each passing month meant more time isolated from family and friends. This experience was true for all of us, including older adults living in senior living communities along with their family members and team members. During this difficult time in history, each of us has become “people deprived” in one way or another.
In March 2020, our family went from being fairly active socially with friends, people from our kids school and in our neighborhood to then not seeing anyone face-to-face for weeks in a row – something we’d never experienced before. Almost everyone I know went through the same exact thing. This was a huge loss for all of us and for some it deeply impacted quality of life, according to the American Psychological Association, social isolation will be a greater threat to healthy aging than obesity. As the vaccine campaign is underway and COVID cases decrease, people are returning to a changed way of living and it will certainly take time to heal. This collective social isolation and its lingering wounds can be overcome quicker if first acknowledge its impact on our lives and accept its associated emotions such as sadness, anger and loneliness. This will help validate our feelings, emotions, pain and rebuild ourselves, our social networks and communities effectively.
The good news is that we don’t have to do this alone. I am a board member at an organization called the Validation Training Institute (VTI). Founded in 1982, VTI ‘s mission is to nurture respect, dignity and well-being in the lives of older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their caregivers by advancing education in the Validation method. Some of the core techniques of the Validation method are actually excellent tools for combating social isolation so that we can emerge from our lockdowns and quarantines to enjoy being with one another again as the world slowly reopens. An important part of practicing Validation is to understand the importance of self-care. One technique used in the Validation method is “centering” which means clearing yourself of thoughts and feelings which as a caregiver will help you listen exquisitely to the person you are caring for and communicate openly.
The lack of social engagement has had a tremendous impact on society during the pandemic but the truth is that this was a problem that was already felt acutely by our youngest and oldest generations. When we apply Validation principles in our relationships with ourselves, care partners and residents, we acknowledge that suffering and loss have happened and prepare ourselves for the reopening of our communities.
The exciting part of applying Validation principles is the potential of multiplying the happiness of rebuilding together, sharing and creating deeper empathy with ourselves, our loved ones and communities, regardless of age!
I wish you deep joy in reconnecting with your loved ones, may this period have taught us the power of empathy, validation and the importance of moments shared with one another – including older adults in our lives.
By: Charles de Vilmorin, CEO and Co-Founder, Linked Senior
The Validation Training Institute (VTI) is a non-profit organization that advances knowledge, values, education and research rooted in the Validation method. The objective is to nurture respect, dignity and well-being in the lives of older adults experiencing age-related cognitive decline and their caregivers. Our vision for the future is that every older adult experiencing age-related cognitive decline, and their caregiver, can feel the joy and love of meaningful communication.