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Battling isolation and depression at senior living facilities during COVID-19

Solstice Senior Living in Bangor is offering more safe activities for seniors to feel less lonely.

BANGOR, Maine — Part of the coronavirus challenge is the loneliness and depression it can bring, which is especially tough for those in senior living facilities as the elderly are at the highest risk of the coronavirus.

Many seniors have been forced to hunker down inside their living facilities for months, often with little to no human interaction.

To avoid isolation and loneliness, Solstice Senior Living in Bangor is offering more safe activities for seniors. Director of Sales and Marketing, Beverly Austin, said many family members or friends are understandably staying away when their loved ones need interaction the most.

"We think of them as not having that social life...that is so wrong. They do! They need to be social. They have a social life and just because they are moved into a senior living facility does not mean that that's the end of their story. This is just another chapter for them. We want to show that they have vibrant lives and they have so much to give and so much to offer," Austin said.

Solstice Senior Living is focusing on its seniors' mental health while restrictions are in place to keep them safe.

"It's been hard. It has been hard, but here, we are like a big family," Renee Smith, enrichment coordinator at Solstice Senior Living, said.

"Any of those things that we can do, just to lift the spirits," Austin said.

From themed activities that include pie-eating contests to word puzzles to desserts and even a photo booth, Austin said simple activities can brighten a senior's day and help seniors fight loneliness and depression during these pandemic days.

Victor and Anabelle Pinkham have been married for 26 years and two years ago moved to live together at Solstice. They say the past year has been difficult for everyone.

"People have kind of secluded themselves in their rooms and some people don't come out of their rooms," Victor Pinkham said.

Victor still drives and has been helping other seniors get to doctor's appointments when they need to.

"I have a tendency to get depressed, and with everything that is going on with COVID and everything else, the last week has been really rough on me," Anabelle Pinkham said.

Anabelle is staying busy making "Pick Me Up" cards to brighten people's days. "It takes away from the stress of being locked down," Anabelle said.

Daily and socially distanced activities are helping keep their seniors on their toes at Solstice. Staff members also check on them multiples times a day and make sure they are feeling stress-free and happy.

"I've had to really think outside the box as far as being creative," Smith said.

"Try to set up Zoom conversations, call your family, anything that you can do so that they still feel that they are interacting with you," Austin said.

Family members are encouraged to schedule Zoom calls, send flowers, send a letter in the mail, or plan socially distanced visits with their senior loved ones as often as possible.

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