Staying home and staying connected can seem like conflicting concepts, but neighbors throughout the community are finding ways to do both.
Rene Halasy, director or RNeighbors,said she’s seeing a variety of options emerge as people strive to stay at least 6 feet apart amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the related communitywide changes.
Here are a few ideas on how to connect with your neighbors at a safe distance:
1. Join a neighborhood network
Halasy said social distancing can lead to isolation and other concerns for older residents.
To create contacts that are being lost from a distance, she suggested turning to electronic communication by joining existing neighborhood networks and email lists.
"Just do a search, because there are groups out there even I don’t know about," Halasy said, noting that some specific local groups may require a bit of interaction to join.
2. Check in from a distance
"I’ve seen stories of people connecting with their neighbors over phone or email or Facebook and helping out with their needs that way," she said.
The one-to-one communication is also helpful to ensure neighbors are OK, as well as to help identify needs.
3. Make no-contact deliveries
When neighbors are found with specific needs, Halasy said it’s important to maintain a safe distance to prevent a potential spread of illness.
When it comes to delivering supplies, she recommended a "doorbell ditch" method, which involves dropping off supplies and ringing the doorbell before leaving. It lets the person receiving help pick up the items when the area is clear.
4. Find games to show solidarity
Halasy said she heard of one local neighborhood that celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on Tuesday with a shamrock hunt. Neighbors put green shamrocks in their windows for neighborhood children to count.
She said endless possibilities exist for other ways to engage in neighborhood activities that help children get outdoors while maintaining safe distances.
5. Start a virtual book club
Caitlin Doran, president of the Slatterly Park Neighborhood Association, went on the NextDoor app to gauge interest in a local online book club in recent days.
Halasy said such activities help link people through shared interests and could forge new connections as people keep their distance.
"There are things I never would have thought about before, but people are being really creative," she said of efforts to create online groups among neighbors.
6. Show support for healthcare workers
Halasy said she’s also seen growing encouragement to display hearts in local windows to support a select group of people who don’t have the option to work from home.
"It shows your solidarity for people working in the healthcare system now," she said.
7. Call to volunteer
Jeani Driscoll, a senior advocate for Elder Network, put out a call for support of the organization’s efforts to help seniors and said the response was overwhelming.
8. Consider casual daycare
Knowing not everyone can work from home and that closed schools leave parents with limited options, social media is peppered with friends reaching out to each other to offer babysitting services.
As one user noted, it’s an option that could prevent a family from needing to rely on the help of vulnerable grandparents.
9. Be creative
RNeighbors is planning to use funds initially planned for a conference to help neighborhoods find ways to engage from a distance through "neighborhood cheer" grants.
"It’s a weird time," Halasy said. "What we usually do is encourage people to get out of their houses to interact."
The proposed grant would encourage finding new options to encourage neighborhood cohesion.