Peggy Rubens-Ellis

Peggy Rubens-Ellis

Cope with challenges in groups for parents and seniors

Social isolation helps us preserve our physical health but it is not so good for our mental health.

  • Friday, October 16, 2020 3:05pm
  • Opinion

Layered on top of the COVID-19 threat, many of us have worries about social justice issues, economic concerns and election concerns. One way we ordinarily deal with these issues is to get together with close friends and family members and discuss, listen and share our concerns. But, during this pandemic, we can’t do those things.

Social isolation helps us preserve our physical health but it is not so good for our mental health. With so many new electronic ways to connect with each other, one might think we are more socially connected than ever before. However, nothing can take the place of real connection. being able to meet someone in person, shake their hand or give them a hug, and sit down for a cup of coffee.

The New York Times recently reported that 38% of seniors felt lonely during the week, even before COVID. Now, in these COVID times, that number has nearly doubled to 72%. So we are feeling more lonely than ever. And no one is exempt: loneliness affects all ages, genders, occupations, and economic levels.

But while we can’t offer in-person connection at this time, we can facilitate groups, via Zoom or by phone, that allow for deep and authentic connection and conversation. And Vashon’s Community Care Team (CCT) is now doing just that.

Talks for seniors, facilitated by Wren Hudgins and Barry Grosskopf

The Community Care Team (CCT) of Vashon, a unit of the Medical Reserve Corps and VashonBePrepared, offers connection groups so that neighbors can connect with neighbors. There will be two facilitated groups for seniors, one utilizing Zoom and the other utilizing the telephone. Anyone is welcome for these drop-in groups and no commitment of any kind is required. Groups will be small, perhaps four to eight people. To learn more or express interest in participating in one of these groups, email or call the CCT Helpline from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 206-701-0694 and leave a message with your contact information.

Someone will call you back.

Talks for parents and guardians, facilitated by Peggy Rubens-Ellis and Carol Ellis

Parents of school-aged kids make up another potentially struggling population. Many in this group are already busy working from home or looking for work and now they have become homeschool teachers as well. Teaching is demanding and not every parent has those skills. Consequently, the Vashon CCT has organized a drop-in group for parents to vent or ask for advice.

The group meets from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Thursdays, on Zoom. Discussions are confidential unless there is a danger to a child. The confidentiality allows safety in the discussion. The philosophy is that there is collective wisdom in the group which surpasses any one single person’s wisdom.

This group has been up and running for a while now and what we have noticed is that having people of different aged kids is very refreshing. We have had a lot of newly-arrived parents attend who are seeking connection during COVID. Some parents just want to know how others are getting by during this isolating time. Other people come for the connection and because they enjoy helping others. The topics that we cover go far beyond COVID and have included making space for work and school, custody challenges, isolation and self-care, relationships, financial hardships, typical developmental challenges made more pronounced because of COVID, and screen time challenges.

To learn more or participate in the parents’ group, email or call the Help Line at 206-701-0694, extension 1, and leave a message with your name and phone number so we can contact you and give you the zoom link.

The Help Line is there for you.

Message from the Community Care Team: We understand that this pandemic may result in increased anxiety, depression, and stress due to feelings of isolation and uncertainty. Please call the Help Line at 206-714-6722 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily for emotional, psychological, or spiritual support. Leave a message if we are unable to answer. We are here to help!

Peggy Rubens-Ellis, who co-authored this commentary with Wren Hudgins and Jinna Risdal, has a Master’s Degree in School Counseling and currently works for VARSA and McMurray in the field of substance use prevention. She is trained in parent coaching and positive discipline.

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