By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – Social distancing is critical during the coronavirus pandemic. For many, especially the elderly, that can lead to social isolation, which takes a toll on both mental and physical health.

At baseline, more than three in five working Americans report feeling lonely. Now people over 60 are advised to stay home as much as possible, which means many will no longer be able to socialize with friends and family or participate in activities and hobbies that keep them connected and give them purpose.

So how can you avoid social isolation?

Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t go outside to get some fresh air. Go for a walk. Sit on the porch. And with these mild temperatures, soon you can do some gardening.

Have face-to-face interaction with friends, colleagues, and family through FaceTime or video chat or at least call others on the phone.

Set up texting chats with friends and family to see how others are doing.

Stay connected on Facebook and Instagram, assuming doing so doesn’t cause more anxiety.

Consider starting a virtual book club.

And the rest of us should offer to run to the grocery stores or pharmacy for neighbors who can’t leave their homes.

Dr. Mallika Marshall

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