One of the challenges of aging is isolation. As the elderly start dying, those who remain are left with fewer friends and peers. In addition, transportation often becomes more difficult and for those who only have friends who do not live locally, they are likely to end up feeling quite isolated.
In Maine, there have been efforts to facilitate this challenge for the elderly by Friends in Action. Sponsoring a weekly coffee house social, people are able to get together and enjoy each other’s company. As well as getting together, anyone over 50 can come and use the event to get information on communal events and services. Coordinated by René Colson Hudson, Project Director of Healthy Island, a lot of people are making use of the event, forming new friendships and reconnecting with old ones.
Another way to decrease loneliness and encourage re-connection, is by learning to use the Internet. While historically the Internet has been avoided by those in the older demographic, this is beginning to change. In fact, a 2015 Censis-Ucsi Report on Communication published in Italy found that within the 55-74 age group there has been a “steady increase in the use of Internet and social media.” As well, it was estimated by the Italian Association of Psychogeriatry (AIP) that approximately 1.5 million elders use Facebook to keep in touch with relatives and friends. This has resulted in a reduction of memory disorders, giving them “younger” brains.
Furthermore, a study my Michigan State University’s Sheila Cotton (published in the Journal of Gerontology) found that there was a direct link when the elderly used the Internet to socialize and the level of depression, finding there was a 30 percent decreased risk of becoming depressed than for those who are not using the web.
Ultimately – in whatever way it is done – life seems more beautiful when shared.