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5 ways to connect with neighbors during the coronavirus outbreak

Gonzalo, a fitness instructor with Sano Sevilla Los Bermejales in Seville, Spain, led a workout class from a rooftop on March 14. (Video: SNTV)
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As Americans adjust to the new normal of social distancing, it can be challenging to find ways to stay active, engaged and connected.

At their core, apartment buildings are people- and community-driven. In times like these, we need the support provided by people and communities more than ever. With many buildings’ lounge areas, remote working spaces, amenities and events closed or canceled, it’s important to find new and intentional ways to stay connected.

Here are several suggestions for building and maintaining community with neighbors during this pandemic while doing your part to slow the spread of the coronavirus:

Host an online book club

With your neighbors, create an email group or use social media to connect and vote on a book to read together. Set up a schedule and commit to reading a few chapters each week. Use the group to share thoughts as you complete chapters, and host a video chat for a full discussion at the end of the book. You could even set up separate clubs for different age groups or genre preferences. Multitaskers may choose to listen to the audio version of the book while they walk or do chores.

In a time where headlines and conversations are dominated by a single topic, it’s healthy to take intentional breaks to focus your mind on something else. Podcasts, books and other entertainment can help facilitate those mental breaks.

Slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus in an apartment community

Challenge each other to stay active

Hold each other accountable to make health a priority, even while in isolation.

In addition to sharing your favorite workouts and fitness apps via email or social media groups, host a community-wide fitness challenge. To elevate the competition, break into teams by building or floor. Award a prize to the winner of the challenge, or celebrate your team’s success when you can gather in person again.

You can draw inspiration from around the world. In Seville, Spain, a fitness instructor led a live class outside and invited residents to participate on their balconies. In France, a man ran the equivalent of a marathon on his 23-foot-long balcony. Think outside the box and connect with your property manager to see what other ideas they might have to facilitate health and wellness activities while still following local and national guidelines.

Put a twist on a classic resident event

Do you love happy hours at the clubhouse? Host a virtual happy hour and invite everyone to share their favorite cocktail recipe. Instead of an outdoor movie night in the courtyard, consider a virtual watch party over Zoom. Several production companies have sent newly released films straight to streaming services instead of postponing their release dates. Get a group together over video chat to watch the movie and share your reactions.

Create a community photo challenge

With so many people working and learning from home, pets are getting lots of attention. Invite your neighbors to submit images for a Pet of the Week competition. Select one pet each week and encourage the owner to post photos or videos of the pet’s status each day for some uplifting content to break up the constant cycle of coronavirus updates.

You also can host a community-wide Spirit Week. Vote on a theme for each day of the week and then invite everyone to participate by posting their photos with a unique community hashtag.

Find ways to learn together in this time

It’s a particularly stressful time for parents pulling double duty working from home and trying to keep their children occupied. If there are other parents in your community, consider a neighborhood story hour when you take turns leading a virtual learning session. You could also find people with different jobs and invite them to do a virtual Career Day presentation.

Another option is to host an online trivia night. This is a great way for families to have fun and learn together. Make it competitive by publishing a weekly leader board and hosting it at the same time each week to give people something to look forward to.

In this time, staying connected is critical to help combat feelings of loneliness or anxiety that could arise or worsen as a result of staying home. Lean on your neighbors and leverage your built-in community, even as you practice social distancing.

Robert Pinnegar is the president and chief executive of the National Apartment Association.

Read more:

The do’s and don’ts of apartment living, self-quarantine edition

8 tips for hosting the perfect virtual hangout

Is social isolation getting to you? Here’s how to know — and what experts say to do.