In this time of quarantine and social distancing, it can be hard to fill the days. Perhaps you’re missing your grandchildren, or just wishing there were good sports on television. 

There are many ways to keep in touch, and keep busy, even during this strange time. 

Council on Aging of Central Oregon has created a list of the top ten ways to stay productive, healthy and engaged while stuck at home. 

#1: Learn new technology

If you have a computer (or iPad or cell phone) that connects to the internet, you can likely access a variety of apps that will help you stay connected during this difficult time. You may have heard of family or friends visiting via FaceTime, Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts. With a little instruction, you can get online and see your loved ones — it’s not quite as good as the real thing, but it’s a nice stopgap. Apple has an easy guide to get you started with FaceTime, as does Google. Or ask someone for help — now is not the time to be bashful! 

#2: Write a letter

If there’s a positive to this recent crisis, it may be that it’s helped put in perspective the important things in life. Instead of rushing from appointment to appointment, many in our community have been forced to slow down, be in touch with family and friends in a new way, and reconnect with the people around them in a meaningful way. You can contribute to this by writing a note to a friend or family member — the U.S. Postal Service continues delivering the mail, and everyone loves seeing something personal in the mailbox. You’re guaranteed to brighten someone’s day — and perhaps your pen pal will write back so you have something to look forward to in your mailbox, too! 

#3: Reminisce

Now is the time to pull out those old photo albums, yearbooks and diaries. Take a trip down memory lane and try to name all the people in that prom photo, or read through your diaries and blush with the embarrassment of the crush you had on that guy in high school.

Better yet, if you have a pile of photos sitting in a shoebox that you’ve always said you’d catalog someday, the best time to get to work on that project is now. Be methodical — organize them first by decade, then drill down as best you can. Label them with the people in them and as close to the original date as you can figure. Your family and friends will love looking through your old memories, especially if they’re organized and labeled. 

#4: Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles

We all know the data — keeping your brain active is a key to senior health. Dust off those jigsaw puzzles in your closet and pull the crossword from the day’s newspaper. If you have access to the internet, there are lots of sites that offer free puzzles — try www.proprofs.com or www.puzzlechoice.com, which has lots of printable options. If you can’t access the internet, swing by the book aisle at your local grocery store next time you do a food run and buy a puzzle book. It’s an inexpensive way to stay busy and engaged. 

#5: Stay fit

Your routine may have been disrupted by senior center and fitness centers closing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good workout at home. If the weather is nice, a walk is an easy way to get your blood pumping. If that’s not in the cards, weight-bearing or body weight exercises at home are simple. Canned goods can sub in for hand weights, and stairs can sub for the fancy step-ups at the gym. If you have access to the internet, there are tons of workout videos a click away, and if you have cable television that offers OnDemand, that may have fitness channels with exercise routines as well. Get creative! 

#6: Start that memoir

No one knows your life as well as you do, and they never will if you don’t write it down! Even if you just want to share your memories with loved ones and not a wider audience, it can be an enjoyable exercise to write the highlights in a memoir style. Starting at the beginning can be a bit intimidating, so start by outlining the sections of your life and what you most want to feature. Then start writing whichever memories most appeal — you can stitch them together into a narrative later. Remember to provide lots of details — young people may not remember what it was like to wait by a telephone for a call, or what the world was like before the internet. It’s up to you to enlighten them. 

#7: Use your crafting skills for good 

If you know how to knit, sew, woodwork or do other crafts, you can use those skills to help others. All sorts of nonprofit groups like MountainStar Family Relief Nursery and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) accept handmade blankets, stuffed animals and toys to give to foster children and other children in need. Many people are currently sewing face masks for healthcare professionals to use amidst the current shortage of personal protective equipment. It’s a great way to feel useful in a time when so much is out of our control. 

#8: Use your local library

If you have access to the internet, you have access to all kinds of resources through your phone or computer, even with the libraries currently closed. The Deschutes Library system has a huge digital collection, and a few quick clicks will get you connected to movies, music, audiobooks and even magazines you can virtually flip through. Each of the digital assets has a helpful guide to get you set up on your computer, phone or iPad. Variety is the spice of life, so try something new. 

#9: Prepare for the future

It’s not morbid to be prepared for what the future may hold — it’s responsible. When you’re asked to stay inside and limit your social interactions with others, it’s a great time to make sure all your affairs are in order. Do you have an advance directive prepared? Are your will and other documents up to date and in an easily accessible place? Do the people in your life know what you want for a memorial or funeral? The National Institute of Health has a helpful list of ways to make sure your family or friends aren’t left confused or frustrated when the time comes. 

#10: Try meditation

It may sound a little hokey, but doctors say that meditation can help during this time of uncertainty. Along with maintaining hygiene and a healthy routine, keeping your mental health at the top of mind is key to surviving your time in quarantine. 

Find a comfortable spot in your home and sit down for two or three minutes. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then focus on your normal breathing and on your body’s movements. If you enjoy the meditation, you can seek out a variety of guided meditations online. 

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