Loneliness can be debilitating, but a scaled down social life doesn’t have to be a lonely one. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say that seniors who regularly engage in Internet activity are less likely to feel lonely than those without a computer.
The results of the study, to be published soon in the The Journal of Medical Internet Research, confirm what some of us already have experienced: Using the Internet can connect us with the people we care about and increase our ability to meet new people – all of which, of course, makes us feel less isolated and lonely.
Today’s web offers more and more ways to connect to the world. We’ve listed seven. You may have tried a few of them already; next time you’re stuck in the house – you’re under the weather; there’s bad weather; or you just can’t find something to do/someone to do it with – try these loneliness-busters.
Recent statistics show that seniors are rapidly entering the social networks arena. Sign up for a network, connect with friends (you might even discover some old friends) and enjoy the results.
- Facebook – in case you’re not one of the more billion-plus people already using it – is a free online network where users register and create a personal profile. Add friends; exchange messages, photos, etc.; and check your newsfeed to see what the people you’re connected with are posting. Some people have discovered long-lost friends on Facebook (and some wish they hadn’t!).
- Skype lets you enjoy face-to-face live-video visits via the Internet, using a webcam or your computer or tablet’s built-in camera and microphone. You can download the latest version of Skype and connect for free after you’ve set up a profile and made or accepted contact requests with friends. (Click here for instructions on how to get started on Skype.)
Listen to Music
Experts say that listening to your favorite music can be extremely uplifting, especially when you listen to familiar songs.
- Pandora is free web service that plays musical collections based on your musical tastes. You can listen to pandora on your computer or via a free downloadable app on your tablet. Click here to learn more about Pandora on Senior Planet.
Going back to school is now just a click away. Even when you study online, you’re part of a community, and coursework can connect you to students of all ages who share your interests. Click here to see Senior Planet’s list of free online courses. And check out…
- Coursera, and online resource that partners with top universities and organizations offering online courses for free. The technology enables these educational partners to offer millions of students access to a world-class education.
Numerous studies have shown that those suffering with depression and anxiety feel better when helping others. Performing acts of kindness pushes aside negative emotions. Don’t worry if you’re homebound: Plenty of groups need callers or envelope stuffers.
- Volunteer Match connects you with opportunities (disaster call center? child care?) based on the causes you’re interested in and your skills and capabilities.
- Create the Good is an AARP volunteer portal that encourages members (AARP Membership is $16.00 per year) to help make a difference in the world.
Join an Online Community
Online communities use groups, message boards and other discussion tools to connect you with others around specific interests and concerns – or just to chat. While there are not many senior-specific online communities, you’ll find plenty that bring together people of all ages who share a particular hobby or passion.
- The AARP Community is the biggest and most lively. Click here to check out an online conversation about older seniors’ computer savviness. [Update 10/6/16: The AARP Community has been discontinued.]
- Travellers Point is a community of people who love to travel.
Get a Pet
Studies show that owning a pet improves both physical and emotional health and is a sure way to beat loneliness.
- PAWS (Seniors for Seniors) adoption program places senior cats and dogs (typically over 7 years of age) with people over 60. PAWS’ online matchmakers help you select a companion that fits into your lifestyle and housing situation at a reduced adoption rate of $35. (Click here to see more online resources for pet choice and care.)
Can’t have a pet? Check out Explore and view live webcams of cats, dogs, and wildlife.
Researchers at UCLA have found that seniors who practice meditation were able to reduce feelings of loneliness and also boost their immune systems.
- Sahaja Yoga Meditation offers free online course for the purest form of meditation through videos and audio guided meditations.
- Deepak Chopra’s site has a wide variety of books, CDs, and videos about learning and practicing meditation. Prices vary.
Got an online loneliness-buster you like to use? Share the info in the comments box below.