How to Stay Connected While Practicing Social Distancing

As communities across the country try to limit the spread of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, there are widespread calls to practice social distancing — limiting our risk of getting sick by limiting our exposure to people who might already be infected.

One of our top priorities is the health and well-being of Heron’s Key residents, so we’re taking preventive measures to increase protection against the virus, such as suspending our sponsored activities and providing meal deliveries at no charge while Syren’s Grille is closed for seated dining.

We’re also taking other steps to keep our community safe: Only essential staff members are on the premises. Additionally, they are screened daily, including temperature checks. Visitors are restricted, and those permitted into the community are screened as well. Delivery people are not allowed to enter the building — food deliveries are handed off to kitchen staff, and all packages are dropped off at the entry and delivered to residents by staff members.

Knowing that social interaction is one of the main reasons that people move to a community like Heron’s Key, we realize that social distancing can be a “hard ask.” To help keep you from feeling isolated while you practice social distancing, we’re offering some ways in which you can stay connected with others and the world at large.

Keep in touch, without touching

Technology makes it easier than ever to communicate with family, friends and others, whether they’re in another state, another country or another room. Chances are you may already be using some of these methods for corresponding with people you know:

Social media

Facebook and other social networking platforms offer an easy way to stay involved with people and groups that share interests similar to yours, no matter where they, or you, are.

Virtual visits

Using an app like FaceTime, Google Duo, Zoom or Skype on your cell phone, computer or tablet, you can have video chats with pretty much anyone in the world. It’s the next best thing to being there!

Phone calls

Calling someone to say hello can brighten the day for both of you. With a cell phone and the right rate plan (or an app like WhatsApp), you can talk to your heart’s content at very little cost.

Text messages

If you’re not a “phone person” but you still want to reach out to someone, texting is great for a quick hello. You don’t have to make a peep — just let your fingers do the talking.

Instant messaging

Similar to texting, you can use the instant message feature offered by Facebook, WhatsApp and other networking apps to have a digital conversation.


Some people love to write long, news-filled notes, and if you’re one of them, email is a quick and easy way to deliver your message. For instance, you can send the same note to lots of people at once, and you can attach digital photos, documents and other types of files.

Revive a (mostly) lost tradition

Once upon a time, people used to write letters and send greeting cards. Nowadays, much of the world has gone electronic. But think about how enjoyable it is to receive a pages-long letter from a friend or family member filled with news about what’s been going on in their life. Or an unexpected card lets you know that you’re being thought of.

With paper and a pen, you can bring that sense of joy to the people you care about. Or you could type a letter on your computer and print it out to send. If you’d like to send a card but don’t have any on hand, get creative! Your efforts might be appreciated all the more.

Take a hike — literally

Just because we’re being asked to keep a safe distance from people around us doesn’t mean we have to close ourselves off from the rest of the world. Unless circumstances change, you can still get out and get moving.

Taking even a short walk outside, where you can get some fresh air and sunshine (don’t forget the sunscreen!), can do wonders for your physical, mental and emotional health.

We encourage you to consider participating in an organized walk with other residents. Just please keep in mind that health officials recommend maintaining a distance of six feet from other people. That’s still close enough to talk while you walk.

Be an audience of one

Those of us who like to engage with the world by going to the theater, concerts, museums and such can still take a tour or take in a show. We just need to use our computers or tablets to transport us there. The Heron’s Key March KeyNotes offers a long list of possibilities.

Think of yourself as an electronic explorer. What interests you? Travel? Music? Art? Go online and search out virtual tours of places you’ve always wanted to see. Or go to YouTube and reminisce as you watch videos of the music you grew up with. You might be amazed — and delighted — to see the faces that go with those voices on the radio from years ago.

Also, keep an eye out on Facebook and YouTube for free broadcasts and live streams. With most public events canceled, for the time being, many groups and organizations are finding ways to reach out to audiences on these and other digital platforms. You can “follow” your favorites or do a search to see what might be coming up.

A case in point

Susan Inui and her husband, Don Ransom, moved to Heron’s Key from Vermont last summer. After they moved, Susan kept in touch with friends, family members and former neighbors in Vermont through FaceTime video chats. Now that the social distancing recommendations have been implemented, she has also discovered Zoom and Google Duo — which is helpful when people are using a combination of Apple and Android devices.

Susan noted that there’s now “a feeling of underscoring the importance of being in touch with people who are precious and who are far away.” Therefore, she wanted to arrange a virtual visit with her two “sisters” in the host family she lived within Denmark for a year in the early sixties. She had been exchanging emails with them throughout the years. But recently, using Zoom, they were able to see each other, in real-time, for the first time in decades.

Furthermore, Susan and Don have even reconnected with their former yoga instructor in Vermont. They are taking her classes via streaming sessions on their computer. Susan is using video streaming to augment her fitness regimen in other ways, too.  For example, she views the live streams of exercise classes provided by Heron’s Key.

Thanks to Zoom, the Heron’s Key staff has recently begun to offer residents a broader range of exercise sessions, and they even decided to open up the feed about 20 minutes before the sessions start to give those who are attending a chance to chat with one another.

Helping residents connect

For residents who might not be so tech-savvy, the staff has provided written instructions with links they can use in setting up their digital devices to access streaming content and more. There’s a volunteer group, the Computer Help Desk, that works with residents on the phone to help them get connected and troubleshoot any problems they might be having. In Susan’s case, she mentioned that her adult children gave her “a little tutorial” to help her get the hang of using Zoom.

Another way that Susan has adapted her routine to adhere to social distancing is by taking advantage of eBooks and audiobooks available through the local library. She’s been enjoying the online feeds of performances by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, as well. Not to mention, she has even figured out a way with her flute teacher to continue her lessons online.

When asked about her perspective on their move to Heron’s Key and the pandemic, Susan replied, “Living in a retirement community like Heron’s Key — which is so incredibly proactive and protective of all of us and finds ways to encourage us to be protective of ourselves and each other — we feel very lucky.

“One of the amazing things since all of this began is that I really haven’t had to completely lose any of the pleasures I had in my life. It’s turned out to be kind of an adventure. I feel like this is going to be quite manageable.”

Want to stay healthy and happy? Stay connected!

One of the most interesting findings comes from the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which has been going on for nearly 80 years. The study found that social connections and good relationships are the keys to being happier and healthier.

Take that to heart, especially now when we’re all trying to do our part to ward off the coronavirus. Above all, social distancing is about limiting our physical contact with each other. It doesn’t mean we have to cut ourselves off from those we care about and enjoy spending time with. We just have to connect in other ways.

You can also stay connected with what’s going on at Heron’s Key by subscribing to our monthly eNewsletter. Just fill out our contact form and ask us to add you to our subscriber list. Or, you can find a link to our newsletter here.