Authors: Ken Zaiken & Kate Schaefers, AARP MN Executive Council Members
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of life – from our physical and financial health to our daily routines. Not since the Spanish Flu epidemic a century ago has there been a greater need to offer assistance and support to those suffering through the fallout of a global pandemic. The impact and disruptions for families are severe and overwhelming, with older adults being particularly vulnerable. Yet with Gov. Walz’s “stay-at-home" order, we remain tethered to our homes with limited ability to pitch in and gather as a community.
One way to regain a sense of control amidst the chaos is to do what you can to help, to be part of the fabric of support in the community. Many of us already volunteer and donate as part of our normal life. Despite disruptions in these opportunities, there are still many ways to show your support for others in need while still maintaining social distancing. Here are some ideas:
If your finances allow, consider making a donation to an organization in your community that serves those negatively impacted by COVID-19. Here are some ideas for making a financial gift:
- Give to local food shelves. With huge increases in people using food shelves, this is a great way to support neighbors. Find a food shelf near you.
- Locate local community efforts to raise funds. For example, Rochester created the Together Fund to target needs that may not fit into existing support entities.
There are many ways to volunteer remotely. Every locality will have its own outlet, but a good place to start would be AARP Create the Good.
Support Local Business
One of the key vitality aspects of any community are the options for dining out and arts. These areas are being hit especially hard due to closures. If you want local vitality, they need support.
- Order takeout or delivery. Many restaurants have converted to carry out only. One idea is to order takeout or delivery once a week from a restaurant in your neighborhood.
- Buy gift certificates. Approach businesses you frequent (e.g. hair salons, cleaning services, retail businesses) and purchase gift certificates or pay ahead for services.
- Support musicians. With restaurants and bars closed, many musicians are in dire straits. Attend virtual concerts or watch parties, keep an ear open for these, enjoy and support.
Reach Out and Connect
Social distancing can lead to social isolation, especially with people living alone. Consider ways to address isolation during this pandemic.
- AARP Community Connections. At a time when people are self-isolating, this website connects you to support in your community. It also enables you to join or organize your own online mutual aid group to stay connected, share ideas and help your family, neighbors, and those most affected by COVID-19.
- Check in on neighbors. Think about which of your neighbors might be most affected by the current situation. Call or knock on their door (with social distancing) to check in with them. Have a conversation and see how they are doing.
- Reach out to caregivers. Do you know someone who is a caregiver? If so, they are probably under more stress than usual. A simple call or front yard visit may give needed support and help them cope.
- Support essential workers. Essential workers – health care workers, workers in long term care facilities, grocery store workers – are all being pushed to the limits. Even small gestures (e.g. a gift certificate for a pizza, offer to wash their car, organize a support event like having group applause when they leave or return home from work) can all make a difference.
We live in exceptional times which drives the need for exceptional action. As Coretta Scott King once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” We are all in this together. Even with COVID-19's reach into every area of our lives, there are still ways to get involved and help others during this time of great need.