With the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, we need to do what we can to prevent the spread of the virus. The CDC recommends that you take steps to protect yourself, including clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, clean your hands often, cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and put a distance between yourself and other people, which is otherwise known as social distancing. These measures are critical for older adults who are at higher risk for severe illness if infected. Staying at home is particularly important since the mortality rate for those over the age of 80 may be as high as 15%. Social distancing does not need to be social isolation; it is important to stay connected. Staying home and isolated can be tough for all involved, but you can have virtual visits with your loved ones — FaceTime calls or Skype are great options. Family members can schedule a virtual visit with Charles E. Smith Life Communities residents by visiting our COVID-19 Updates page.

Below are some online activities that will keep you engaged during your time at home:

  1. Take A Virtual Tour

You can visit many museums and other cultural venues from the comfort of your home by taking complimentary virtual tours. Good Housekeeping published an article listing 30 museums, zoos and aquariums that can be discovered from home. In collaboration with Google Arts & Culture, it is now possible to discover some of America’s most beautiful National Parks through spectacular, narrated tours. You can also check for updates online. For example, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is closed to the public, but it posted a video of some of its resident penguins touring the halls.

  1. Online Performing Arts

In addition to classic movies available on a variety of cable and streaming locations, many performing arts venues make past performances available to the public online. The New York Metropolitan Opera is featuring nightly opera streams free of charge. The Kennedy Center Digital Stage offers a variety of the venue’s past performances online for free. Through a monthly or annual subscription, Broadway HD features hundreds of shows including Broadway Classics, Shakespeare, and the latest popular shows.

  1. Exercise At Home

An important part of staying healthy is exercise. Online, there are thousands of videos that provide a range of workouts from yoga to chair exercises to zumba. Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider about your level of fitness, and get recommendations on the best exercise types. Once you know your level and your interests, a simple search on YouTube will reveal a variety of options.

  1. Continued Learning

Online learning is a great way to keep your mind engaged. Ivy League schools offer over 450 free online courses, from Aristotle at University of Pennsylvania to Women’s History at Columbia University and many options in between. Also, you can discover fascinating TedTalks, innovative lectures on a broad variety of topics by experts in their field.

According to health experts, people over the age of 65 and people with chronic illnesses are at the highest risk for serious complications from COVID-19, so practicing social distancing is critical for your health and those you love.

Our lives seem disrupted, but staying connected with family, friends and the world from the comfort and privacy of your own home is imperative during these unprecedented times.