Back when the COVID-19 outbreak first entered the public awareness, we all hoped that it wouldn’t amount to anything major — that it would be controlled and effectively eradicated in short order, or do little more than cause some trivial cold symptoms.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened. It spread throughout the globe, costing many lives and turning 2020 into a once-in-a-generation disaster.

Young people are unlikely to suffer serious symptoms, at least, but older people are at serious risk and must be protected. This has greatly complicated their lives in recent months, and stands to make the winter a huge challenge.

If you’re a younger person worried about the elderly people in your community, you’re right to feel that way, but you can do something about it. You can take action to help them through the winter and lockdown number two. Here are some steps you can take:

Talk to them on a regular basis

Anyone of any age can suffer from loneliness, but it’s more somewhat prevalent among older people who are less likely to have busy social lives and more likely to be uncomfortable talking about their problems. Though attitudes to issues of mental health — like loneliness — have changed massively over the years, older people can still feel that they’re stigmatised and struggle to address them as a consequence.

Due to this, one of the best things you can do is make an effort to talk to elderly people in your community (safely, of course: most likely over the phone). If you know of someone with no family or friends to look after them, ask for their number so you can chat. You don’t need to spend hours every day talking to them. Just reach out once every couple of days to see how they’re doing. This will also help you support them in the other ways listed here.

Help them navigate the online world

The main reason why the global economy has merely gone into recession instead of collapsing entirely is technology: specifically online technology. It allows people to work from home, handling all their professional and personal business through the internet.

In short, the internet is an incredible resource, yet sometimes older people can struggle with using technology. You can offer some free tech support to help with every aspect of navigating the online world, particularly concerning things that would otherwise have been done in person. Your advice can provide the reassurance that everything is doing what it’s supposed to.

For instance, if an older person needs to get some prescription medicine but can’t easily get to a pharmacy, you can coach them through using an online pharmacy and getting their meds delivered. If they want to reconnect with an old friend, you can guide them through configuring their social media details, finding the person they’re looking for, and starting a conversation.

Ensure they have enough supplies

Many elderly people live alone, wanting to keep their independence, and that’s a noble and respectable choice in general — but it isn’t very helpful at the moment due to the ever-changing lockdown restrictions. Even when they wear masks and maintain distance when they go shopping, they put themselves in far too much danger.

Now, charities like Age UK already offer various forms of support in this area, but they can’t cover everyone, and there are many elderly people who are too proud to approach actual charities (or simply don’t know about them). But they might let you help.

You can take it upon yourself to take their supply orders, fulfil them, and deliver them. You don’t need to break social distancing to do this: you can simply leave people’s items just outside their doors and confirm that they’ve brought them in safely before you leave. Whether you’re delivering food staples or luxury items to lift their spirits, you can make their lives easier.

Challenge anyone being irresponsible

Lastly, one of the key ways in which you can protect the elderly people in your community is by setting a good example for others — and taking a stand against them when they’re acting irresponsibly.

You ultimately can’t force anyone else to be sensible, but keep in mind that most people have elderly relatives they care about. If you take the time to explain to them why it’s so vital for them to be careful, you might be able to convince them to wait for a better opportunity. And while you shouldn’t seek to shame anyone who won’t wear a mask (shame achieves little), making it clear that they’re being selfish and pushing them to act could get through to them.

You should also encourage anyone who’s receptive to help you on your quest. Many hands make light work, and the more people you can persuade to commit some time and resources to your mission to protect the elderly in your community, the more you can achieve. Even a small group of people in a large community can make a huge difference.

As winter nears, don’t just think about yourself. Think about all the elderly people in your community who may to struggle in the coming months — and think about what you can do to support them. Even if you can only do one of the things we’ve listed here, you can still achieve worthwhile results. Everything helps.

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