Many of us baby boomers had active and social lives before the coronavirus pandemic abruptly disrupted our routines. With social distancing and quarantine to help slow the spread of the virus, it’s easy to feel lonely, isolated, and depressed. What can we do?
Just because we can’t be physically together doesn’t mean we can’t be safely connected and socializing, which isn’t too difficult thanks to technology. We can still have a little fun instead of wasting ourselves here in Coronaville.
If you’re not up to date with the latest offers that help you virtually socialize, here are a few options:
* If you haven’t started using Zoom, it is quite amazing and allows you to host up to 100 people. Do we have a budget? They have a free plan that allows you an unlimited number of meetings as long as you keep each meeting no more than 40 minutes.
* Houseparty is a free app that allows eight people on a video call at a time. You’ll find fun activities to do with your friends once you’ve joined. For example, you can play games like entertainment trivia or play music.
* Marco Polo allows you to send messages that last only a few seconds. But unlike Snapchat, the app saves videos so you can have a conversation with your friend or a group of friends.
* Of course there is still Facetime, which can now host up to 32 people (if everyone has the latest iOS), Google Hangouts, and Skype.
Okay, let’s say you’re ready to go. Not sure how to virtually entertain? Or maybe you dread having conversations in virtual social settings? Here are some great ideas to help you:
Organize a virtual Happy Hour
Virtual happy hours can bring some normalcy and fun back into our lives while giving us something to look forward to during these difficult days. My husband and I were recently invited to one and were amazed at how relaxing this virtual social event can be. The host had everyone prepare their favorite drink and then share the recipe with the other guests. We also share tips on how to overcome the pandemic. One couple explained how they do their grocery shopping online through Instacart, which they hadn’t heard of before. Another explained that there was a secret “retouch” filter in Zoom that helps you look your best (my vanity loved this tip!).
Do you need icebreakers? Start with a virtual registry to see how everyone is doing. What Netflix show are you bingeing on while quarantined? What movies or books would you recommend? What great podcast have you discovered? What new music have you come across? What exercise videos inspire you?
Or have guests take a virtual tour of the room they’re calling from and point out something fascinating. Perhaps it is a memory from another country, a childhood treasure or a manuscript of a book that they have begun to write. Once people have had a drink, they may be willing to share the most embarrassing piece of clothing they wear while in quarantine. Or share hidden talents. Can you touch your nose with your tongue or move your ears? That’s always good for a laugh! Do you want to put everyone in a good mood? Ask people what their first trip or vacation will be once everything is back to normal.
Make a training video with a friend in Zoom
Not inspired to exercise? Are you used to exercising in a group at the gym? There are many YouTube channels, like Fitness Blender, packed with free workouts at home. Invite a friend or two to join you on Zoom and click the Share Screen button. Websites like Orangetheory offer free daily workouts. Many fitness studios like Retro Fitness have also started live training classes for free on Facebook.
Enjoy virtual movie nights
You can also use Zoom’s screen sharing feature to watch a movie together with friends. Or try Netflix Party, an extension that allows multiple Netflix users to watch a show together from different locations. It syncs your video and has a group chat feature that allows you to exchange comments.
If that’s too much technology for you, agree to watch the same movie or show and use the phone, Skype, or FaceTime to discuss later.
Organize a virtual dinner with friends
Since restaurants have been banned, my husband and I volunteered to pick up some takeout from a local restaurant and drop it off at our friend’s door. We then hooked up with Zoom for a virtual dinner together, with a white tablecloth, flowers, and candles.
Do you prefer to cook at home? Invite guests to cook their favorite food on Zoom and share the recipe with others. You could even have a theme. Maybe everyone will dress up island style and make a Hawaiian chicken dish. Or dress up 70s style and make fondue. Bonus points if you match your Zoom background to the theme.
Have a virtual game night
Charades or Karaoke can work with Zoom or Houseparty. Two Truths and a Lie is another simple but entertaining game that will help everyone learn more about each other. Have your guests tell two true statements and one lie and have people guess which is which. Play for bragging rights to see who knows each other better.
Or maybe you’ve seen Instagram’s Social Distancing Bingo going around. Instead of letters and numbers, these bingo boards list the activities that people do while in quarantine. Items on the board can include “I stayed in my pajamas for two days in a row”, “I finished a puzzle”, “I had snacks all day”, “I Googled my symptoms”, “I baked for fun” or “I shopped at line”. You can make a free space to wash your hands. You can find sample boards by searching for the hashtag #socialdistancingbingo on Instagram or by Googling “Social Distancing Bingo.” If you don’t want to play on Instagram, create your own bingo boards and text or email them to your friends, then virtually join in to play.
Did you know that you can play board games with friends online on the computer or in a mobile application? Digital versions of Boggle, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, Risk, Uno, Scattergories, and Scrabble are available that can be played with friends. Or try Cluedo, an app that is a digital version of the classic mystery game Clue. While the board looks different, thanks to the 3D graphics, this adaptation remains mostly true to the board game version and is great for families.