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You can do this

The new normal descended quickly. A few weeks ago, when I considered the health and well-being of aging friends and family, my biggest concern was social connectedness. Today the all-consuming focus is social distancing — the exact opposite.

I offer a few considerations that may help manage this unanticipated journey. I begin with a Facebook post I encountered this week. “Your grandfather was asked to go to war. You are being asked to sit on the couch. You can do this.”

Yes, we can. Perhaps a certain amount of couch sitting in front of “Golden Girls” or a cowboy movie, or a few hours of binging on Netflix is in order. But may I suggest it be followed by some form of physical activity to maintain strength and flexibility. You may be isolated, but you must be strong.

If you do not have a dog that needs walking, pretend you do. Keep your distance from those you meet, of course. But wave if you see someone. Consider the folded hands and slight bow of the Hindu greeting — namaste — or the Moroccan right hand on the chest, which means, “You are in my heart.” Double elbow bumps or an air hug at the 6-foot range might also be considered.

When you do venture out to the grocery store, wear gloves — maybe even those old white cotton gloves your mother used to wear to church on Sunday. Take them off carefully without touching anything when you got back to your car, and wash them in hot water when you get home. If you have latex gloves, use them — but do not reuse them. Toss them after one use. Do not try to wash them in hot water.

If you feel a sneeze coming on, sneeze into your chicken wing, as I heard one person refer to it. You may already be doing these things, but just in case you need tender reminders.

I was in a health facility this week and witnessed a few people overreact when someone sneezed in their vicinity. Totally understandable, but it is allergy season.

Take advantage of the early-morning, seniors-only hours some stores are starting to offer. When you get to the counter to check out, and the clerk asks if you want any stamps, say yes, and when you get home use them and write to an old friend or two who may be even more isolated than you feel.

If you have an advanced directive, now is the time to review it. If you don’t have one, now is the time to prepare one. For those who are not familiar with the term, it is “a set of instructions that explain the specific health measures a person wants if he or she should have a terminal illness or injury and becomes incapable of making decisions.” They are available to download online, or call your health provider and ask to have one sent.

We are in this together. We can do this.

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharon@rbtrv.org.