Friendship blooms from a place of support, compassion and trust. Friends often enjoy similar interests and activities, and feel comfortable sharing their triumphs as well as their setbacks with each other.

Social distancing and being apart from friends during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, but it has been particularly difficult for older adults and individuals with disabilities. Especially individuals living independently in their own home who are already at risk for social isolation.

The importance of social connections

Maintaining positive social connections plays a key role in overall health as studies have shown. Those who lack social connections are at greater risk of experiencing depression and cognitive decline.

It is possible to spend time together, although apart. Take a creative approach. Perhaps take a page from those who have successfully maintained long-distance friendships prior to the pandemic. Despite being many miles (or even time zones apart) long-distance friends tend to remain friends because they are dedicated to staying connected and do so in a variety of ways:

  • Regular mail. From annual holiday letters to fun postcards and greeting cards, the letter writing tradition is carried on.
  • Email/Text. Whether it’s through a long email or a short text, day-to-day thoughts or funny moments can be shared instantaneously – complete with pictures and emoji’s.
  • Telephone call. A phone call remains one of the easiest ways to stay in touch with friends. And, it’s a little more personal than mail, email or text because you are able to hear them laugh and express themselves.
  • Video chat and conferencing. From FaceTime to Skype and Zoom, make the most of technology to get together virtually with friends. Don’t know how to Zoom? Consider asking a tech-savvy friend or relative to guide you through it over the phone.
  • Drive-by greetings. Similar to a drive-by birthday parade, drive-by a friend’s home to smile, beep and wave from your vehicle while they remain at their front door. Even though it’s a distanced approach, you get to see each other and it’s a way of brightening their day and letting them know you care.

Remember that friendships must be nurtured. Maintain those important connections. Be sure to make time for friends on a regular basis. Haven’t heard back from a friend in a while? Don’t be discouraged – try to reach out again.

Looking to reconnect with old friends but not sure what to say or how to begin? Reminisce about holidays past or times spent together. Places you have been and people you know. Activities you enjoyed together or accomplished since you last connected with them.

Or, you might simply start the conversation with “Remember when…”

February is Friendship Month. Celebrate by letting friends know you are thinking of and care about them.