Many of us baby boomers had active and social lives before the coronavirus pandemic abruptly interrupted our routines. With social distancing and quarantining to help curb the spread of the virus, it’s easy to feel lonely, isolated, and depressed. What can we do?
Just because we can’t physically be with each other doesn’t mean we can’t stay connected and socialize safely – which isn’t too difficult, thanks to technology. We can still manage to have some fun instead of wasting away here in Coronaville.
If you aren’t up-to-date with the latest offerings that assist with socializing virtually, here are some options:
* If you haven’t started using Zoom, it’s pretty amazing and allows you to host up to 100 people. On a budget? They have a free plan that allows you an unlimited number of meetings as long as you keep each meeting no longer than 40 minutes.
* Houseparty is a free app that allows eight people on a video call at once. You’ll find fun activities to do with your friends once you’ve joined. For example, you can play games such as entertainment trivia or play music.
* Marco Polo lets you send messages that are only a few seconds long. But unlike Snapchat, the app saves videos so you can have a running conversation with your friend or a group of friends.
* Of course, there’s still Facetime – which now can host up to 32 people (if everyone has the latest iOS), Google Hangouts, and Skype.
Okay, so let’s say you’re set up to go. Not sure how to entertain virtually? Or maybe you dread making conversations in virtual social settings? Here are some great ideas to help you:
Host a Virtual Happy Hour
Virtual happy hours can bring back some normalcy and fun to 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 surprised at how relaxing this virtual social event can be. The host had everyone make their favorite drink and then share the recipe with the other guests. We also shared tips on how to get through the pandemic. One couple explained how they do their grocery shopping online through Instacart – which I hadn’t heard about before. Another explained that there was a Secret “Touch Up” Filter on Zoom that helps you look better (my vanity loved this tip!).
Need some icebreakers? Start off with a virtual check-in to see how everyone is doing. What Netflix show are they bingeing on while in quarantine? What movies or books would they recommend? What great podcast have they discovered? What new music have they come across? What workout videos inspire them?
Or have guests give a virtual tour of the room they’re calling from and point out something fascinating. Maybe it’s a souvenir from another country, a treasure from childhood, or a manuscript of a book they’ve started writing. Once people have had a drink, maybe they’d be willing to share the most embarrassing item of clothing they wear while quarantined. Or share hidden talents. Can they touch their tongue to their nose or wiggle their ears? That’s always good for a laugh! Want to put everyone in a cheerful mood? Ask people what their first trip or vacation will be once everything returns to normal.
Do a Workout Video with a Friend on Zoom
Feeling uninspired to exercise? Used to working out in a group setting at the gym? There are plenty of YouTube channels, like Fitness Blender, teeming with free at-home workouts. Invite a friend or two to join you on Zoom and click on the share screen button. Websites like Orangetheory offer daily free workouts. Many fitness studios like Retro Fitness have also started live-streaming workout classes for free on Facebook.
Enjoy Virtual Movie Nights
You can also use Zoom’s shared screen function to watch a movie together with friends. Or try Netflix Party, an extension that lets multiple Netflix users watch a show together from different locations. It synchronizes your video and has a group chat function letting you swap commentary.
If that’s too much technology for you, agree to watch the same movie or show and hop on the phone, Skype, or FaceTime to discuss afterwards.
Host a Virtual Dinner with Friends
Since restaurants have been off limits, my husband and I offered to pick up some take-out from a local restaurant and dropped it off at our friend’s door. We then hooked up on Zoom to have dinner together virtually, complete with a white tablecloth, flowers, and candles.
Prefer to cook at home? Invite guests to cook their favorite meal on Zoom and share the recipe with the others. You could even have a theme. Maybe everyone dresses island style and makes a Hawaiian chicken dish. Or dresses 70s style and makes fondue. Extra points if you make your Zoom background match the theme.
Have a Virtual Game Night
Charades or Karaoke can work using Zoom or Houseparty. Two Truths and a Lie is another simple yet entertaining game that will help everyone learn more about each other. Have your guests tell two true statements and one lie and make people guess which is which. Play for bragging rights to see who really knows each other best.
Or perhaps you’ve seen the Instagram social distancing Bingo going around. Instead of letters and numbers, these Bingo boards list activities that people do while quarantined. Items on the board may include “stayed in PJs for two days straight,” “finished a puzzle,” “snacked all day,” “Googled my symptoms,” “baked for fun,” or “shopped online.” You can make a free space for washing 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, make your own Bingo boards and text or email them to your friends, then join together virtually to play.
Did you know that you can play board games with friends online on the computer or a mobile app? 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’s a digital version of the classic mystery game Clue. While the board looks different, thanks to the 3D graphics, this adaptation remains mostly faithful to the board game version and is family-friendly.