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Posts Tagged ‘isolation’

A Paoli, Pennsylvania, teen who had volunteered in a senior living facility, started a movement to help the elderly have more outside contact during the pandemic.

The other day, someone on twitter asked how other people were keeping themselves from being being overwhelmed by anxiety in these challenging times. My answer to that was “take action.” It makes a person feel less powerless and therefore more hopeful.

If you’re overwhelmed by politics, take political action of some kind. There are opportunities for every taste. If you’re overwhelmed by lost paychecks, use a food bank and volunteer there, too. If you’re overwhelmed with sadness for seniors quarantined in nursing homes, volunteer to talk to a few online.

Allyson Chiu writes at the Washington Post, “When the coronavirus pandemic left elderly residents in long-term care facilities largely cut off from their families and the outside world in early March, Hita Gupta got to work. Channeling the resources and volunteers of a nonprofit she founded in 2018, Gupta, 15, of Pennsylvania, started sending letters, cards and care packages to senior homes nationwide, even reaching some facilities in the United Kingdom and Canada.

“Her efforts garnered her widespread media attention and positive feedback poured in from recipients. But Gupta didn’t think the efforts went far enough. While letters and cards are a kind gesture that research has suggested can have a positive impact on mental health, they are ‘one-sided communication,’ the high school junior said.

” ‘That cannot be matched by a real-time conversation with a senior, a real conversation where both sides are learning and they’re building a bond,’ said Gupta, who until March had been volunteering on the weekends at a senior living facility near her home in Paoli, a Philadelphia suburb. ‘Being able to speak with someone who’s having a hard time … who’s experiencing isolation and loneliness, being able to ease some of that tension, I think that’s so important.’

Drawing inspiration from the regular Skype sessions she has with her grandparents, who live in India, Gupta started offering another service to the eldercare centers: video calls with volunteers from her nonprofit, Brighten A Day.

“The organization has also been collecting and donating camera-enabled devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops to facilities in need, allowing residents more opportunities to virtually connect with their loved ones in addition to volunteers.

“During the pandemic, the virtual interactions have emerged as a complement to more traditional efforts to reach out to seniors, which have mostly focused on written communication. …

“[Says] Robert Roca, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s council on geriatric psychiatry, ‘Somebody expressing interest, somebody prepared to listen, the experience of having somebody reach out to you, even if it’s not a person you know well, there’s something very powerful about that in restoring the morale of somebody who’s demoralized by loneliness.’ …

“Though there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all solution’ to combating loneliness, Roca emphasized the benefits of feeling connected. And for many older adults who have been isolated amid the pandemic, video calls have emerged as a ‘lifeline,’ he said. …

“About 100 volunteers have signed up to participate in calls, Gupta said. Interested facilities receive a spreadsheet listing information about the volunteers, such as their hobbies and what languages they speak, to help match them with residents. Volunteers also go through an orientation that provides guidelines for how to act during a call and tips for facilitating an engaging conversation. …

“ ‘Every time our residents talk to one of the volunteers, they’re like overjoyed afterward and that’s all they can talk about,’ said [Brandi Barksdale, director of life enrichment at memory-care facility] Artis Senior Living of Huntingdon Valley. …

“Jackie Kaminski, 21, has been video-chatting with the same resident at Berkeley Springs Center in West Virginia since the beginning of July. The pair talk over Zoom every week, Kaminski said, adding that she was recently able to celebrate her resident’s birthday with him.

“ ‘It did take time … to have him open up,’ said Kaminski, a senior at Indiana University. But now, they talk about his family and childhood, and he gives her advice on things happening in her life. ‘We have a great rapport,’ she added. ‘We have this relationship.’

“These conversations can help elderly people in long-term care facilities feel like they are valuable, said Eleanor Feldman Barbera, an expert on aging and mental health based in New York. One of the stages of life, Barbera said, is to ‘feel like you’re giving to the next generation.’

“ ‘Being able to talk to other people, younger people and talk about your life and feel like you’re passing on your wisdom can be a great way of feeling like you’re still accomplishing things and that your years are a benefit to somebody else,’ she said.”

More at the Washington Post, here.

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Photo: Devin Muñoz
” ‘Cooped-Up’ is a contemporary dance performance viewed entirely from behind car windows,” reports Margo Vansynghel at
Crosscut.

I’m fascinated by all the different ways the arts are reaching out during our lockdown. Some efforts come off better than others, and a given organization may be kind of lame on one evening and on another delightful. We’re all learning as we go.

In this story, Seattle dancers offer performances for an audience in cars.

Margo Vansynghel writes at Crosscut, “Gedney Barclay sat in her idling car in a North Seattle Safeway parking lot, awaiting instructions. She could feel herself getting anxious. … She looked around — unsure of what would happen next — and glanced at the phone in her hand. The call from an unknown number would come anytime now. And then there would be no turning back.

“Barclay wasn’t involved in some kind of nefarious plot. She was about to participate in ‘Cooped-Up: Drive-in Dances for Cooped Up People,’ a contemporary dance performance by local company LanDforms, in which audience members view the proceedings through their own car windows. …

“Guided by pins on a digital map and a downloaded soundtrack — featuring songs,  poetry, a couple of old voicemail messages and mysterious clues — ticketed audience members drive through the city and visit performers at their homes. The dancers perform from porches, sun rooms, front yards, alleys and balconies while the audience, cocooned in 20 cars (one per household), drives up to watch at 10-minute intervals.

“ ‘It’s a wild journey all over Seattle,’ says LanDforms’ Leah Crosby. She and co-director Danielle Doell describe the show as a whimsical mashup of a drive-in movie, scavenger hunt, escape room and ‘durational performance’ tailored to and inspired by COVID-19 restrictions. Basically, they say, it’s like curbside pickup of food-to-go, but for dance. The first, mid-April performance of Cooped-Up sold out almost instantly. …

“Crosby and Doell are among the many local artists finding front yard and window workarounds to the stay-at-home order and ban on gatherings.

“Earlier in March, artist Rachel Kessler and On the Boards director Betsey Brock staged a citywide performance titled ‘Going the Social Distance,’ for which they collected song requests (and home addresses) from participants, donned cheerful costumes and biked to people’s houses blasting the songs through Bluetooth speakers. Isolated fine art photographers are venturing out to photograph people from a safe distance either outdoors or behind windows. In late April, KEXP radio DJ John Richards started broadcasting live concerts from his front yard. …

“Cooped-Up deals explicitly with our new corona-colored reality. In seven different dances created collaboratively over Zoom, the participating dancers bring their personal quarantine experiences (and corresponding cocktail of emotions) to the makeshift stage. However whimsical, the show doesn’t shy away from expressing the loneliness and the boredom specific to this cultural moment. …

“On a Zoom call with production manager (and frequent collaborator) Ari Kaufman in late March, the duo wondered: ‘How can we make a live performance right now?’ Doell says. …

“When Doell, who is also a youth educator, noticed that cooped-up kids in her neighborhood had been hunting for the stuffed animals neighbors placed in windows as a way to pass the time, she wondered, ‘Maybe we can make kind of a dance teddy bear hunt?’ …

“These are not improvised performances. Everything is timed to the minute, if not to the second: when the first audience member’s car leaves; when they should arrive at the next location; where every car should theoretically be at each point in the performance; when the next song is supposed to start; and when each dancer resumes their short loop. ….

‘At any given time during the show, there are basically seven miniperformances happening simultaneously, Crosby says. That’s a lot to keep track of.

“During the five-hour run of the show, she sits in her room in West Seattle, headphones on, surveying multiple screens and spreadsheets like an air traffic controller. Meanwhile, pacing in his kitchen about a dozen miles away, production manager Kaufman has his phone at the ready, in case a car gets lost or runs into any trouble. …

“The dancers, including Doell, say [they] miss the collective warmups and preshow rituals, the murmur as the audience trickles into the theater. When they’re done, there’s no applause. It’s a new shade of loneliness. But also one that has Doell reconnecting with her neighborhood, she says.

“ ‘A lot of neighbors were poking their heads out and being like: “Wow, what is happening?” ‘ Doell recalls. …

” ‘Normally, the audience member’s job is to pay money and then sit face-forward in a dark room where their identity is masked,’ she says. [In this performance, they] have to figure out where to go. Follow the clues. Find the dancer. Park by the gray garbage bin, not the green one — and don’t knock it over while backing up. …

“[Audience member Barclay] hadn’t ventured outside her neighborhood for a long time. Driving through the city was a poignant reminder of something she already knew: So many people, in house after apartment after studio, were going through the same isolation, the same loneliness. But for a few hours, from the relative safety of her car, Barclay felt like she’d made a connection — rekindled the kind of mutual appreciation between dancer and audience that electrifies live performance.

” ‘It made me feel way less alone,’ she says.”

More here.

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Photo: Alamy
Exercise and social activities could help to reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life, according to a new report.

Although there is no cure yet for dementia, lifestyle changes have the potential to reduce new cases by as much as one-third.

Nicola Davis writes at the Guardian about a recent report from the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care. The study suggests that many “dementia cases might be avoided by tackling aspects of lifestyle including education, exercise, blood pressure and hearing. …

“ ‘There are a lot of things that individuals can do, and there are a lot of things that public health and policy can do, to reduce the numbers of people developing dementia,’ said Gill Livingston, professor of psychiatry of older people at University College London and a co-author of the report. …

“ ‘We expect it to be a long-term change that will be needed for exercise; joining a gym for two weeks is probably not going to do it,’ she said.

“Clive Ballard, professor of age-related diseases at the University of Exeter medical school and also a co-author of the report, added that the evidence suggests individuals should also try to follow a Mediterranean diet, maintain a healthy weight and keep an eye on their blood pressure. …

“The results reveal that as many as 35% of dementia cases could, at least in theory, be prevented, with 9% linked to midlife hearing loss, 8% to leaving education before secondary school, 5% to smoking in later life and 4% to later life depression. Social isolation, later life diabetes, midlife high blood pressure, midlife obesity and lack of exercise in later life also contributed to potentially avoidable cases of dementia, the report notes. …

“They admit that the estimate that more than a third of dementia cases could be prevented is a best case scenario, with the figures based on a number of assumptions, including that each factor could be completely tackled. …

“Fiona Matthews, professor of epidemiology at Newcastle University who was not involved in the report, said that interventions for depression and social isolation could still prove valuable. ‘If we could actually resolve some of that issue, even if it is not 100% causal, it is likely we might be able to slow [dementia] progression – even if [an individual] is on a pathway to developing dementia already,’ she said.

“She added that the proposed areas for action could offer myriad health benefits beyond lowering dementia risk. …

“The authors pointed out that an intervention that delayed dementia onset and progression by even a year could decrease the number of people with dementia worldwide in 2050 by nine million.”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Raising a family is challenging under any circumstances, but Simon Romero of the NY Times can tell you about families that have added on a somewhat more extreme challenge: settling in Antarctica.

He writes from Villa Las Estrellas, “Children at the schoolhouse here study under a portrait of Bernardo O’Higgins, Chile’s independence leader. The bank manager welcomes deposits in Chilean pesos. The cellphone service from the Chilean phone company Entel is so robust that downloading iPhone apps works like a charm. …

“Fewer than 200 people live in this outpost founded in 1984 during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, when Chile was seeking to bolster its territorial claims in Antarctica. Since then, the tiny hamlet has been at the center of one of Antarctica’s most remarkable experiments: exposing entire families to isolation and extreme conditions in an attempt to arrive at a semblance of normal life at the bottom of the planet.

“It gets a little intense here in winter,” said José Luis Carillán, 40, who moved to Villa Las Estrellas three years ago with his wife and their two children to take a job as a teacher in the public school.

“He described challenges like trekking through punishing wind storms to arrive at a schoolhouse concealed by snow drifts, and withstanding long stretches with only a few hours of sunlight each day. …

“Most of the students at the village’s small school, who generally number less than a dozen, are the children of air force officials who operate the base; some of the parents say the isolating experience strengthens family bonds.

“That Villa Las Estrellas is so remote — its name can be translated as Hamlet of the Stars, since the lack of artificial light pollution here enhances gazing into the heavens — sits just fine with many who live here.

“ ‘People in the rest of Chile are so afraid of thieves that they build walls around their homes,’ said Paul Robledo, 40, an electrician from Iquique (pronounced E-key-kay). ‘Not here in Antarctica. This is one of the safest places in the world.’ More here.

And here you thought our cold snap was a little intense!

Photo: Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times  
Children being picked up from school in Villa Las Estrellas. Most of the students at the village’s small school, who generally number less than a dozen, are the children of air force officials who operate a nearby base. 

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We went downtown to have lunch at the Whitney Museum with friends and to take in the Real/Surreal exhibit.

Favorite artists like Charles Sheeler, Mardsen Hartley, and Grant Wood were featured. I liked the eerie emptiness of Edward Hopper’s “Seventh Avenue” and the anxious denizens of George Tooker’s subway world.

Sounds unnerving, but in surfacing the alienation, I think the artists make one feel the possibility of getting a grip on it.

Afterward, we walked up Madison, stopping at a gallery in the Carlyle Hotel that was showing Magritte works, some for sale.

I have always liked Magritte, with his bowler-hatted men blocked by giant green apples and his nighttime streets overarched by daytime skies. And I especially like him because once in a workshop, I directed a Tom Stoppard one-act play inspired by him, After Magritte. It was the best fun!

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