Being connected to loved ones and engaged with their lives is at the heart of being human. Maintaining these meaningful connections as we age may become challenging, particularly when life's changes involve the loss of one's spouse, partner, siblings or close friends, and when families live far apart. Isolation may lead to depression, self-neglect and substance abuse, so maintaining connections is vital to maintaining good health.

Research has determined that the health benefits of social connection and engagement are particularly prominent among seniors1. First, seniors who have a higher sense of purpose, belonging and control appear more likely than other seniors to perform healthy behaviors and less likely to engage in harmful behaviors2. Second, they tend to have a higher sense of hope and optimism, which can help to protect against health deterioration3. Third, they may also have improved health due to improved immune system function4. Perhaps because of all these benefits, studies show older adults frequently and regularly give aid to one another in everyday life5.

For example, websites like Caring Bridge and Lotsa Helping Hands provide tools to connect people and coordinate care. By using technology to facilitate caregiving, TimeBank-based social support has proven highly popular with seniors. For example, the Visiting Nurse Association of New York which runs the Community Connections Time Bank, reported that 41% of their 2333 members are age 60 or older and that 79% of them said that the TimeBank gives them adequate support to age in their homes and community6. CareWheels has built the Lake Oswego Value Exchange (LOVEbank) to provide TimeBanking services in our community.

The internet has become the place for families and friends to stay connected, share photos of grandchildren, video chat, read and play together. Yet the majority of people over the age of 75 are unaware of these ways to keep in touch. For baby boomers and younger generations, life without web surfing, e-mail, texting and video chat seems unthinkable. There's no place like home, but must it take a wizard to make the connection?

Smartphones and Tablets and Apps - Oh My!

A slew of new touch-screen technologies are opening the way for elders to get their hands-on while pointing the way to connect and engage with family and friends. Online media services like Netflix and Spotify are bringing movies and music from every era and genre into the home. Perhaps there is a tech wizard in the family who can help make these introductions? If not, Contact Us to explore your options for connecting technologies and engaging services.

 

References:

1. Gardner, P. J. (2011). Natural neighborhood networks — Important social networks in the lives of older
adults aging in place. Journal of Aging Studies, 25, 263-271.

2. Clark, N, and Dodge, J. (1999) Exploring self-efficacy as a predictor of disease management. Health
Education & Behavior. 26, 1, 72-89.

3. Krause, N, and Shaw, B. (2003) Role-specific control, personal meaning, and health in late life. Research on Aging. 25, 6, 559-586.

4. Sieber, W, Rodin, J, Larson, L, Ortega, S, CummingsSandra, N, Whiteside, T, and Herberman, R. (1992) Modulation of human natural killer cell activity by exposure to uncontrollable stress. Brain,
Behavior, and Immunity. 6, 2, 141-156.

5. Peters, G, and Kaiser, M. (1985) The role of friends and neighbors in providing social support. Social
Support Networks and the Care of the Elderly, 123–158.

6. VNSNY (2009) Visiting Nurse Association of New York Community Connections Impact of the TimeBank on its Membership Research Study Results