Plug in to your elderly folk: You may be the livestream they need
Emilyn Tan // March 31, 2020, 1:22 pm
Come unto me: The weary among our elderly could just be looking out for someone to help them make the best of their 'stay home' notices. Photo by Alex Boyd on Unsplash.
It seems to me that the word “vulnerable” has come to be associated chiefly with the elderly in these coronavirus days. We are reminded – and rightly so – of their particular susceptibility to this ruthless virus because of age and frailty.
If we’re not careful, though, driving that point home too hard could do more harm than good.
Our Pioneers are digital aliens cut off from the world of tablets and laptops, smart phones and smart nation.
As it is, they recognise that they’re in an advanced phase of life. Let’s not mince words: “Old” is already how they feel. Threatened, surely. And tired, probably.
In combination, that’s a triple whammy.
Ten days ago, the first two COVID-19 deaths recorded in Singapore were of a 75-year-old and a 64-year-old.
Last Sunday (March 29), one more death due to COVID-19 was reported. The Whatsapp text from Gov.sg read: “A 70-year-old male Singapore Citizen developed serious complications and succumbed after 27 days in ICU. He had a history of hypertension and hyperlipidaemia.”
The word “hyperlipidaemia” was so fright-ful that I looked it up immediately and found it to mean “high cholesterol”.
“You shall stand up before the gray head and honour the face of an old man.” (Leviticus 19:32)
Paired with high blood pressure (the layman’s term for “hypertension”), the twins are a malady compromising the health of many more of our elderly than we care to imagine.
Plainly, COVID-19 is virulent and the seniors are, well, vulnerable.
Kudos to our healthcare system that fights for each life – regardless of age – with hearts that care and heads that get around every piece of medical equipment available to them. Thank God, too, for every nimble hand that nurses the isolated with skill.
Let’s go out of our way to do similarly at home.
Tailoring a solution for seniors
Nationwide, ecclesiastical efforts have made online church sermons and bible study sessions accessible in our living rooms. But not all segments of our congregations are benefitting.
“Digital livestreaming and online resources completely disengage seniors,” Isaiah Chng, the founder of Empower Aging, told Salt&Light.
His idea of “a tailored solution” for seniors includes bite-sized hard copy materials, ageless communications platforms, small group meet-ups and casual phone calls for “fellowship”.
That is hopefully already in the works or upcoming. Meanwhile, in one family member’s hands or another, there’s the equipment needed to give our parents and grandparents the booster shot they need for their spiritual health.
We’re talking a mobile phone, big screen, bandwidth.
We usually swipe them right off the learning curve by being helpful on their behalf.
There’s also usually someone around with the IT know-how too, who’s able to plug everything in optimally just in time for Sunday service whenever it may be livestreaming.
The crux of care would then be to unplug from your own in-ears and sit with them, have a conversation about the sermon and hear them out. Connect to their lonely souls.
Rather than allowing our hearts to flat-line over their “helplessness”, let’s accept that our Pioneers are digital aliens through no fault of their own, cut off from the world of tablets and laptops, smart phones and smart nation.
Even going out to a restaurant for a meal, whether sit-down or fast-food, can be a bane to them.
Everything from touch screen ordering to Pay Wave paying is mind-boggling – especially since someone usually swipes them right off the learning curve by being helpful on their behalf.
So, the mandate given in Leviticus 19:32 could well be taken to mean we are to step up and step out for our “old people” at such a time like this.
Go the distance. Whether for someone in your immediate family or wider community, it will count for a reward (Psalm 19:11) in heaven, I’m sure, because not for nothing does it say: “You shall stand up before the gray head and honour the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.”
Kong Hee, Senior Pastor of City Harvest Church, put it aptly when asked to comment on what Easter means to him this year: “Easter to me is to practically demonstrate the love of Christ to our family, friends and everyone around us.
“What better way to explicitly preach John 3:16 than to live out the words of Jesus in Mark 12:31 in our daily lives – ‘love your neighbour as yourself’!
“Especially in this current COVID-19 pandemic, we should manifest the power of the cross even more evidently and extend it beyond the four walls of the church. Let us find a hurt and heal it, find a need and meet it!”
You may need to look no further than in your own home.
Loving our seniors during COVID-19
Here are some of the ways that we can help the seniors in our family or neighbourhood make sense of all the changes in this season when familiar structures are swiftly evolving:
1. Help them “attend” church
This could mean watching livestream church with them, or showing them where/how to access pre-recorded sermons, podcasts or livestream services.
2. Be their Siri
Instead of jumping in to operate technology for them, help them to demystify their mobile phone, TV, tablet or computer. Take them through (more than once, if necessary) their most commonly used functions. Keep any instruction or hard copy material bite-sized.
If they have access to Facebook, introduce them to content specially produced for seniors, such as silvergoodsg, where they can move along to exercise videos, listen to music and view culinary arts “classes” online.
3. Stay connected through the familiar
Isaiah Chng suggests keeping to small group meet-ups (with the usual precautions) and casual phone calls for “fellowship”.
4. Keep a lookout for lonely seniors
“Especially in this current COVID-19 pandemic, we should manifest the power of the cross even more evidently and extend it beyond the four walls of the church,” reminds Senior Pastor Kong Hee.