Help our seniors avoid loneliness and social isolation

The prior issue of WBVO, always available at our website,, had a great article on spring cleaning in Jennifer Hartzell's The Green Report column that even a self-proclaimed “geek” learned something from: Best Buy recycles TV for a nominal fee.

Adding to that informative article, I want to remind our readers that before taking a computer, tablet or smartphone to the Bay Village or Westlake service departments for disposal, please make sure to physically extract the “storage devices” from computers (geeky terminology: “hard drives” or “solid state drives”) for safekeeping. For smartphones and tablets, it is important to factory reset the devices before drop-off. In a future column, we’ll demystify these necessary processes so you can minimize the risk of the nefarious getting hold of your personal data.

It’s been two weeks since I first wrote about the current nemesis “coronavirus” (COVID-19) and how communities are using various “social distancing” measures to contain the outbreak. A lot has transpired since, with Ohio schools, libraries, recreation centers, entertainment venues, and more temporarily closed.

Halfway around the world, my mother is aging-in-place in Yokohama, Japan – a harbor city on Tokyo Bay where the Diamond Princess cruise ship was quarantined in February. For years I’ve been calling or video chatting with her on my commute as visiting Yokohama is not like driving to Youngstown every weekend (I wish it was that close). I recall a conversation a couple years ago where she said that if her neighborhood friend doesn’t stop by to chat and I also miss a call to her, she can go the whole day without talking to anyone. I can’t fathom such loneliness!

The side effects of social distancing are numerous but some relief may finally be expected from our government to alleviate some of the burdens. The relief is welcome to families and individuals, especially when social distancing measures put unexpected financial stress on parents needing to work to make a living but their children are home due to school closures for weeks.

But when faced with adversities such as the current pandemic, societal challenges are not only financially based. Regardless of aging-in-place or living at independent, assisted or nursing facilities, humans crave and need emotional intimacy. Congregating in groups or visitations by family/friends nurture that basic human need.

As social distancing limits congregating at familiar venues or prohibits visitation to senior living facilities by family/friends, seniors can fall through the cracks and into the abyss of loneliness and unintended social isolation.

My message, a plea to be exact, is to be cognizant of this unintended effect of social distancing. Probably you are already and this is just me preaching to the choir.

With many seniors still not being digitally literate, even a regularly timed phone call will go a long way in hopefully avoiding the pitfalls of loneliness until normalcy resumes where emotional intimacy can be had through visitations or going to meet friends and families. Unfortunately this was all forced upon us but digital literacy is a truly viable option in this and future challenges we face.

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with almost 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation

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Volume 12, Issue 6, Posted 9:41 AM, 03.17.2020