Social distancing has proved difficult for everyone but one group that has been hit particularly hard is the elderly. With limited mobility, many older people rely on visits from friendly neighbours and family to lift their spirits and keep them connected. However, after NPHET announced that people over the age of 70 should cocoon to help protect themselves from coronavirus, many relatives have not been able to visit their loved ones who are being cared for with home care services or are in a nursing home.

Here are five activities that can help lift the spirits of an older friend, neighbour or relative during the lockdown. If you do not live with them, you can give the instructions and required materials to their home care services provider or even send them in the post.

Skype calls and video chat

Skype calls and video chat is one way to keep in touch with your loved one. If the person is unable to hold the phone or tablet, plan a time that you will call and ask their carer or someone who is able to visit to hold it for them.

Podcasts and audiobooks

For many who have lost their sight, reading books is no longer possible. An audiobook is a great way to get around this, with the right headphones and equipment this can be a very enjoyable activity and can take up a considerable amount of time. One idea is to ask the person if they have any favourite books that they have read in the past and then download them for them. If they don’t, give some suggestions; many literary classics are available for download. Audible and iTunes are two places to find audiobooks.

Gallery tours and live screenings

Our favourite museums and galleries may have shut their doors but virtual museum tours and exploring online archives is a great way to keep your loved one entertained. There are plenty all over Ireland that offer entertainment and enjoyment for hours, you can find a great list of these here.

For a European getaway, they might enjoy a visit to Florence’s Uffizi Gallery; with masterpieces by Botticelli, Da Vinci and Titian, they’re sure to recognise a few! There are lots of famous institutions and musicians offering free streaming content too; for example, the Royal Opera House recently launched a programme of live online screenings.

Drop off letters or care packages

Everyone loves to receive a letter. Another option is a care package or box of goodies which you can fill with their favourite treats, photos, books and anything that might cheer them up. Remember to sanitise all the items first. And always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before putting everything in. You can also use two bags – a bag to hold the items and an outer bag that can be thrown away after being received. Encourage family and friends to send letters and cards, too.

Homemade gifts for grandchildren or friends

Easy arts and crafts are a good way to help keep a loved one entertained and brighten their day. One idea is to create homemade gifts for grandchildren and other family members, such as picture holders, homemade potpourri bags or jewellery with large beads that are easy to thread. Handmade cards with felt shapes and gems are another idea. Not only is this fun, but it can encourage them to look forward to the future when they can see family again and give them their presents. Picking different colours and designs for different grandchildren will help them to remember and focus on the positive. It’s easy to find craft kits online, which come with everything you need inside.