Valentine’s Day means, for some, a reminder of an unwelcome solo state – but help, fun and community is only a click away.
According to the Journal of Medical Internet Research, older adults who socialize daily online are more likely to experience greater life satisfaction than those who use the internet weekly, or never, according to the results of their ongoing six-year study. Participants who used the internet more frequently had better life satisfaction and lower depression scores.
Socialize with a Click
At Senior Planet, Jonathan Ushindi Zaluke, Sr. Digital Community Relations and Product Specialist, is helping older adults live their lives more fruitfully through an ad-free online community for those 55+ called Senior Planet Community (SPC).
“We wanted to build a virtual space that recreates the feeling of being at a Senior Planet center,” says Zaluke. “The pandemic caused a deep longing for missed and past connections. We wanted to design a platform where people could interact around the same interests virtually.”
SPC boasts more than 4800 members, with groups and interests revolving around books, technology, travel, decluttering, and more.
Zaluke, who is from The Democratic Republic of the Congo, takes pride in shaping the day to day and future of the platform. “In my culture we have a great deal of respect for older adults, their leadership, and how they are often great teachers,” he explains.
Age-Friendly and Safe
The making of such a platform was no small feat. Zaluke worked with developers to make the platform age-friendly—making fonts bigger or text bolder—before hosting pilots with Senior Planet staff and trainers and with older adults. These pilots were helpful in gauging the user experience and help to gather feedback to strengthen the platform before its official launch to the public on March 23, 2022.
How SPC Works
The platform offers a seamless experience, from creating a free account to selecting groups most related to your interests. Once groups are selected, any activity for them populates on users’ “My Community” page (below).
Users are able to privately message other users as well as interact with their posts by liking or leaving comments. Users can also create their own posts to update their peers and friends.
“The platform is 24/7, ad-free, and we moderate content intentionally to preserve members’ security and safety.”
While classes are mainly available via seniorplanet.org, SPC offers a safe space for older adults to stay connected when they are not participating in online or in-person classes. When asked how SPC can be a picker upper, especially around specific holidays and observances, Zaluke points out “Older adults don’t have many places to share their knowledge or ask for help (and many also can’t receive help or receive help at limited times). If they have something to say, they can express themselves here. The platform is 24/7, ad-free, and we moderate content intentionally to preserve members’ security and safety.”
For older adults living in low density population communities, or areas outside of major hubs with limited infrastructure, Senior Planet is working to mobilize Trainers to reach older adults in hard to reach places through classes, like Finding Community with SPC or Senior Planet’s Affordable Home Internet program, and national programs such as the Affordable Connectivity Program. A mobile app is also currently in development.
Want to try SPC?
Whether you are already an active member or a new one, Zaluke recommends these groups:
- Caregivers Assemble – a space where all caregivers can discuss their experiences, ask questions to their fellow comrades, and share tips;
- Mindful Engagement – a group where older adults can pursue or continue their mindfulness journey.
“…have fun using a social platform that is just for us!”
When asked about the importance of these groups, SPC member Malvina notes, “…I think that Senior Planet Community will be the perfect platform for older adults like myself who are eager to make new connections and continue to learn new skills. I encourage all older adults to give Senior Planet Community a try, and have fun using a social platform that is just for us!”
Looking to see what users think? Check out this latest post on Instagram by Senior Planet.
Zaluke is excited to help old and new users continue to age with attitude and explore new interests with their peers. And as Valentine’s Day approaches it’s important to remember that just like love, community conquers all.
NaBeela Washington, an emerging Black writer, holds a Master’s in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University and Bachelor’s in Visual Advertising from The University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has been published in Eater, The Cincinnati Review, and others. Learn more at nabeelawashington.com.
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