Explain Like I’m 65: "Social Distancing"

Table of Contents:

  1. What is Social Distancing?
  2. Why?
  3. FAQs
  4. Stay Safe

Some people act like they know it all. Our new series Explain Like I’m 65 is for the rest of us. It will provide clear, digestible summaries to help seniors sort through the noise and get the factual information they need. From political buzzwords to household how-tos, we’re here to provide accessible guides and informative answers.

This week we’re discussing a concept that COVID-19 has made us all familiar with: social distancing.

What is Social Distancing?

Social distancing is one of several tactics a community might employ in the event of an outbreak. While isolations and quarantines focus on individuals and small, potentially-infected groups, social distancing efforts affect large populations. They are an exercise in extreme caution designed to discourage a disease from spreading when the total number of infected individuals is not known.

In general, social distancing measures aim to keep people at least six feet apart from one another. While they have varied from country to country and state to state, recent social distancing initiatives have included shuttering businesses, cancelling events, and introducing curfews. Millions of students are out of the classroom and employees around the country are adjusting to remote work.


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Officially, the CDC has discouraged gatherings of more than fifty people. President Trump went further, suggesting Americans should avoid crowds of even ten people. He has, however, recently hinted that he would lift nationwide social distancing orders.


It’s no secret that many world governments were woefully unprepared to address COVID-19. That’s part of why world health experts believe social distancing is so crucial right now. It likely presents our best chance to “flatten the curve” and keep infections from overwhelming our healthcare infrastructure.

Avoiding unnecessary trips out of the house reduces your risk of contracting the coronavirus. More importantly, it reduces the risk that you’ll spread it to a more vulnerable individual. Seniors, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals are all considered especially vulnerable. Many retailers have introduced special shopping hours to help these populations practice social distancing without forgoing necessities.


Many seniors still have questions about what social distancing and stay-at-home orders mean for them. While specifics may vary based on state and local authorities, here are some answers to a few of the most common:

  • What’s still open? In most areas, only essential businesses are still open. These include, most notably, grocery stores and pharmacies. Seniors are advised to look for seniors-only hours and practice good social distancing while shopping for groceries or picking up medications.
  • Can I still exercise? Yes, it is still considered safe to walk or exercise outdoors. In fact, getting exercise can be a great way to reduce stress and boost your immune system. Take care, however, to practice safe social distancing while doing so and comply with any state or local regulations.
  • How long will this last? Nobody knows. While initial social distancing measures were introduced for a timeframe, the pandemic has not slowed down. Seniors can expect to hear calls for social distancing into the foreseeable future.

Stay Safe

Whether you’re social distancing at home or in public, it’s important to keep yourself informed and follow the instructions of trusted global organizations. In addition to avoiding crowds, seniors should practice good respiratory hygiene, disinfect high-contact surfaces, and wash their hands regularly.