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How to Stay Busy and Useful, While Sheltering in Place During Coronavirus Quarantine

By Becki Cohn-Vargas March 27, 2020 Mindset

Several counties in the San Francisco Bay Area have already announced a mandatory shelter-in-place requirement. They said all non-essential businesses would have to be closed. Essential businesses were defined as medical facilities, grocery stores, gas stations, and hardware stores.

They said restaurants needed to only serve takeout. They said it was fine to walk dogs and hike as long as we kept social distancing. That may soon happen where some of you are living, or maybe you are already in quarantine.

I had already been in a voluntary quarantine for over a week as I am 67 with a cancer diagnosis. However, I know these new directives will further restrict and isolate everyone.

Last Wednesday I woke up and wanted to figure out how I could help others in some way – right from my home. Here are a few of my ideas. In the comment section below, please add your suggestions.

Start with Your Own Network of Friends and Family

Begin by thinking about the people in your life. Ask yourself a few questions:

Be a Cheer-Upper

Have you checked in with all your friends? How about a friendly hello to see how they are doing? I sent out a set of electronic cards to my children and their spouses and to my sisters and their children. They all thanked me for a friendly hello. I try to send at least one electronic card every day. Free ones are available at Blue Mountain.

Who is isolated alone and needs a call to cheer them up? I have a friend in New York who lives alone. She was happy to get a call. My friend decided to “meet up” with another friend (who lives alone) on FaceTime for a shared exercise session.

Take the Heat Off for Parents Staying Home with Their Kids

Do you know anyone who has kids and could use help with home schooling? Maybe they might be very glad to have some distraction for their children. I used to be a teacher so this came to my mind immediately.

Imagine being cooped up all day for days on end with kids who cannot go out. And it is not even raining. I am sure the kids would appreciate friendly distractions, tips for what to do, and even help with schooling. Every parent who has heard this idea says they would be highly grateful.

I selected the son of a friend and started today. My friend and her son were very grateful for the hour I spent with him on FaceTime. We had a lot of fun researching and writing a story. The second grader picked the theme: Cookie Cutter Sharks. I learned something new as well!

Support Friends and Family Who Have Suddenly Lost Income from Their Livelihood

Has anyone close to you been laid off or cannot work because they are not in an essential business? Do you know someone who is financially at-risk? I suggest we all try to help in any way we can.

Huge spending bills passed in the US that are aimed at helping people avoid financial disaster. Will this be enough? Consider how you can help. You might help financially or by providing work-from-home resources.

If you hire people to work for you to clean, for example, pay them anyway. Independent contractors probably do not have sick leave pay or access to unemployment benefits.

You can also help by discovering opportunities they may not know about – here are a few examples: getting an extension to pay income tax late, getting waivers for parking tickets, learning where and how to obtain small interest-free or low-interest loans for small businesses.

Then Think of How You Can Help Other People in Need

It may seem hard to think of what you can do from home, but here are a few ideas:

Volunteer for a “Warm Line”

I had never really heard of this form of a hot line until I read a news article about this option being used to support seniors who are shut-in. A warm line is a version of a hot line which is not for crises, but for support in general.

The Institute of Aging coordinates volunteers who operate a “friendship line.” Check on the availability of this type of volunteer work. I submitted an application, and I am waiting to hear from them.

Consider How to Use Your Expertise and Talents

As a retired person, perhaps you have expertise that can help others. I am a retired educator. Some educators reached out to me, and we are working to provide collections of educational resources to support kids. We also will be doing webinars or group calls where educators share what they are doing.

Helping Others Always Cheers Us Up

I had a full day today working on all these ideas. My mind was active, and I felt connected to others. Together, though sheltering in place, we can support each other and feel joy and warmth even across many miles during this difficult time.

Resources and Ideas to Use Now

Group Call Apps

Zoom offers limited services at no charge for 40 minute group calls. It is a way people can come together to talk, hold meetings, or even hold a book club. Google Hangouts is another similar app for group calls.

Games to Play Over the Phone

Did you play 20 questions while on family car trips? I fondly remember how we spent hours playing together. Here are 21 games that can be played over the phone.

Free Educational Tools for Helping Children

You can find more ideas on things to do while you stay at home during coronavirus pandemic here.

What expertise do you have to help others in this time of crisis? Can you help children via virtual connection? What resources have you found for helping others? Please share in the comment box below!

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The Author

Becki Cohn-Vargas, Ed.D, has been blogging regularly for Sixty and Me since 2015. She is a retired educator and independent consultant. She's the co-author of three books on identity safe schools where students of all backgrounds flourish. Becki and her husband live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have three adult children and one grandchild. You can connect with her at the links below.

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