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Monday, 28 April 2014

Depression, Elders and the Internet

Throughout the decade-long history of this blog, I've written about the importance to elders of blogging and of the friendships that develop at a time in our lives when we have left behind the camaraderie of the workplace, when old friends and relatives move away or die, when our ability to easily get out and about may become compromised.

Of course, I don't mean just blogging. It's the internet in general – the places where we choose to hang out and interact with others. It can be blogs, the dozens of social media sites, special interest websites where we can find people with whom we share a passion.

Numbers of studies over these years show that the internet helps relieve loneliness and isolation and now, depression too. From a recent research report:

“Late-life depression affects between 5 and 10 million Americans age 50 and older. This new study shows that the Internet offers older Americans a chance to overcome the social and spatial boundaries that are believed to fuel depression...

"With other factors constant, the authors found that Internet users had an average predicted probability of depression of .07, whereas that probability for nonusers was .105. Based on the difference, Internet use led to a 33 percent reduction in the probability of depression."

Yes, yes, I know - chance, predicted, probability – the usual weasel words of scientific reports, particularly psychological ones.

We are no longer allowed to trust our own intuition and experience, and nothing is concrete until a pink neon sign repeatedly flashes the word “depression” (or whatever is being studied) on the screen during a brain fMRI.

Nevertheless, I accept the results of this study for all sorts of good reasons, the best one being what happened to me last week during the several days of the blog blackout that was the result of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on my blog host, Typepad.

All comments to this blog and The Elder Storytelling Place are sent to my email inbox and I have them color-coded to stand out from other email so it's easy for me to keep up with what you are all saying throughout the day.

Some of you have become friends with whom I email or speak on the phone and in some cases, we have met in person. There are others of you, regular commenters, whom I've not met in person or via email but have come to know astonishingly well through your comments alone.

Often, when I'm writing a post, I can (and do) predict to myself how some of you – email friends and not – will respond. “XX is going to hate this.” “YY will have a good story related to this.” “ZZ will make us all laugh about this.”

I've become so familiar with the habits of some regulars - frequency of comments or the time of day for example - that I smile when your comment arrives right on schedule and I fret a bit when you don't show up as expected, then issue a sigh a relief when you return.

So last week when the blogs were down and there were no comments, I found myself feeling lonely.

Even though a zillion of you emailed to ask if I was dead (well, you were too polite to say it outright but I can read between the lines), that's not the same as our daily conversation and I missed you.

What I've come to see is that among whatever else I do every day, I am grounded by this blog and most specifically by you who stop by to have your say.

Depending on the topic I laugh, I cry, I nod, I wonder sometimes what you've been smoking and as time goes by, I keep learning more about each of you, my blog friends.

Except that this all takes place in the ether of the internet, I no longer see how it's much different than if we all lived down the block from one another and hung out at each others' homes like our parents and grandparents did.

So during the big blog blackout it was as though my friends disappeared. Poof. And although I can't say I was depressed – after all, I did know the reason and that the problem would be fixed before too long - I missed having you around, missed your familiar voices.

I realize all those researchers have their jobs to do and they are important but I already knew from my own experience, confirmed by the blog blackout, that the internet is where some of our best friends are and they are as important to our mental and emotional well-being as exercise and healthy food.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Do You See Us?


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Ronni, can you imagine the fun we'd have if we all lived walking distance to each other?

Put together our collective talent, creativity and experience and what have you got?

A kick ass community.

Where would we be located?

It's a sunny day in Montreal. Canada geese above, neighbour's cat is straight lining the top of the backyard fence, garden is cleaned and ready, bike on standby for first group trip tomorrow.

Big sumo hug coming your way, Ronni.

I didn't know what had happened when the blog wouldn't come up, but did at first think it was some sort of internet quirk. Got a bit more worried the longer it was down, but relieved and glad to see you back.

Here: north Alabama. Black skies this morning and ominous weather alerts to possible tornado outbreak late afternoon. I sure hope not, since the 2011 tornadoes ripped up my neighborhood and don't think I can go through that again. Sigh.

Ronni,
I am so glad the website is back. I missed you and worried that you were ill. I love coming here and it is a part of my morning routine. It is so helpful and comforting to see how you and the readers are coming through so many things common to me. I come back many times a day to read the additional comments and feel like I am coming back to my neighborhood. I agree with doctafill that we would make a great walk about community of people if we lived close. This is a comforting place to be and definitely an antidepressant for me.

Checking your blog is one the first things I do in the morning. Yes, I worried, the reassuring thing was that the blog was down, that would not happen so abruptly in the case of illness or kidnap ;-). Still I worried. Glad you back in it and also well.

Now I know why people died younger in prior times: there was no Internet.

Because the site was clearly having problems, I wasn't worried that Ronni was ill. More like I could visualize her cursing and muttering until it was fixed.

I am drinking coffee and watching my bird feeders, wondering when I'll see my first oriole and rose-breasted grosbeak. I've already spied some hummingbirds. Sun is trying to come out. Gotta get in the shower in 15 more minutes. Glad we're all back.

I truly had internet withdrawal by the time my cruise ship reached the panama canal. Home, I started by opening your page and discovered you in turmoil.

I'm so sorry about all this. Yes, many of us cherish our internet friends, but many older folks that I work with don't go online at all. They don't see the need, they say. I do think they are frightened by it all.

I understand hacked and DOS as well as virus's and other ugly things. My blog isn't much these days, but I still keep a backup in the cloud, on my computer and on my backup computer. Ditto for all my photos.

I so hope things are going better now. Hugs from here.

I, too, missed you, Ronni. It was disconcerting to say the least to find no connection available. Your blog is always on my morning to-do list, and I look forward to finding out what topic is up each day.

It is rainy, rainy, rainy here is southern WI...all week, they say. At least it is now green and NOT snowing.

I don't remember what originally led me to your blog Ronnie, but I do know what keeps me coming back, you are spot on when it comes to how we so-called seniors are treated and looked upon. In addition, you do it with humor, pathos,emotion and, humility. When I read your blog, and especially the comments, I feel as though I am part of a very special community of bright, alert and informed older citizens who refuse to sit back and let life pass them by. I just wish I could get more of my fellow residents here at the ALF to get online.Thanks gain.

"the internet is where some of our best friends are and they are as important to our mental and emotional well-being as exercise and healthy food".

Couldn't agree more Ronni. I get my first cuppa tea and settle down to your and two other blogs every day: all feisty, well-informed women who run those blogs.

And, whoever said it is right: reading through the comments is like participating in a grand conversation.

I don't always comment as I don't feel qualified to when it concerns the US health and social security system but I enjoy trying to make sense of it all.

There's one major difference between online exchanges and the in person variety. The physical surge of pleasure and recognition you feel in your heart/gut/emotions, when you see a chum after a bit of absence.

But checking in here each day to see what this bunch of 'bright, alert and informed' (why thank you Bruce!), people are discussing is indeed a highlight of my morning.

Ronni, you and your blog are a welcome constant in my life.

When you aren't there every day, it's like a friend has gone away on a trip and left an empty place. You were welcomed back with open arms and a big smile!

For several years I volunteered in the computer room at my local, large retirement community, library. I would regularly help people set up e-mail accounts or show them how to do a search. Most of the e-mail accounts were on the insistence of grandchildren, and most of the people had never touched a computer. You wouldn't believe the amazement when, after a few tries, they'd be able to send e-mails to others or get the results of a search.

Many of them would come in every week, and thank me like I had just invented the wheel. I know it changed their lives.

Ronni - you're my first every morning, and I'm writing this while enjoying a cool, and gorgeous, Arizona morning, wile the hummingbirds are all around.

Glad you're back!


Ronni,

Yes, you and the commenters on your blog are truly what keep me from being depressed and lonely.

Some days go by and I do not see or speak to any one in person.

BUT,I visit your site and find out what you and everyone else I care about are up to and sometimes I join the fray and sometimes I don't.

Thank heavens you are almost always here when I need some company. When your site was down last week I tried getting through about 10 times a day and was always disappointed when you were still not available.

I'm happy you are back and I'm even happier to hear that you missed me almost as much as I missed YOU!

Even my non-blogging (or blog reading) friends read this one. I'm glad you were able to overcome the ethernet gremlins.
I have learned that in spite of beginning my own blog for completely self-serving reasons (to eventually promote an upcoming book), I'd be poorer without it. I've discovered so many interesting people who have jogged my thinking in so many ways.

My blog and the internet does fill a void in my life but I've often wondered if I put as much effort into 'real life' networking would I find more fulfillment there. I could be walking past people daily who online I've communicated with or have loved reading their comments. But in the end, when I most long to 'talk' to others---say in the middle of a sleepless night---the keyboard is there, calling me with her seductive demeanor and I am grateful for that.

Glad to see you back. Yours is the first blog I check every morning.

I chuckled when the message first came that the blog didn't exist. I knew you were taking a sabbatical of sorts and thought, 'boy she's really taking this hiatus thing seriously, shutting down the whole blog.'

I was pretty sure that something had disrupted service b/c your blog is not the first, nor will it be the last, to which this will happen. I often have trouble connecting with those who use Blogger. I think WordPress and Blogger are mortal enemies.

Depression plus internet? If you torture the data long enough it will tell you what you want to hear. There's a lot of reasons you may have felt the way you did (maybe not depressed, maybe withdraw) It sounds like the crash on typpad may have been hackers,well organized trolls who knows. But I agree that the internet is a way for many seniors to reach out to others for better or worst. That being said you provide valuable service to others. May this glitch pass quickly.

Ronni ~ I too enjoy your blog with my morning coffee without fail....When you don't show up in my inbox, I get concerned. This is such an excellent meeting place every morning.
Thank you for this opportunity.

I have said this so many times that I will probably bore you with the comment that the computer saved my sanity and kept me from depression. The good friends I have made have replaced the physical ones who have died or gone missing from my life. I spend most of my day on the computer and do research as well as keeping in touch with friends. I have learned so much and there is still much to learn. Live is good.

This all seems to makes sense based on the premise that our true value as humans depends on our social contact with other humans, even if it "takes place in the ether of the internet." :-)

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Bellingham WA, having much more communion with you and your commenters than I am having with the clientele. I never miss reading your blog, even if I rarely comment.

I guess like so many times in my life I, unfortunately, just take some things for granted. I’ve always known how much I enjoy Ronni’s blog, but until I could no longer make contact, did I realize how much.

Ronni, you've been a regular in my Inbox for several years now. Love absorbing your insights, research, and fun posts. Sharing laughs and seeing what other commenters add is an important part of my computer time. Thanks for keeping us together!

I feel loneliness can be a part of depression, but depression is an illness that sometimes grabs a target for reasons beyond their control. Nice to know that blogging/internet use may lessen the proclivity to suffer depression.

although I've only commented a few times, I always look forward to checking in with your blog first thing in the morning. And I look forward to hearing what the regulars have to say - it's always an interesting, well informed conversation. I felt relief when you were back online. Thanks for being an important part of my daily life!

I thought you had been abducted by aliens!

Oh, I was nodding at every word, Ronni! My blog is so important to me as are my commenters and other bloggers. I may not comment here very often but please know that I read every post. Glad to have you back in the circle!

Wow! I love the way you sum things up.

glad you are back!

This is my end-of-the-day treat, and I was really worried when it went away.

You're right, Darlene, Life is good now that Ronni's back.

Also usually read your blog first thing in the a.m. with a cup of tea at hand. But I missed the blank-out because I had no access to a computer when I went out of town for Passover. Just gave a sigh of relief to see I only missed the aggravation.

Like all the others who comment on this blog, Time Goes By is a constant in my day. I am not a morning person and often am out the door on the day's errands, sketchbook in hand. But this place is where I go for information and like minded friends. I used to dream of old fashioned coffee houses where one could have a cup of coffee and share intelligent conversation. SF has coffee houses but all are full of techies, eyes glued to their laptops, ignoring the headache inducing music - or contributing their noise to the mix.

Without my blog, I never would have begin to write about art and connect with people in the Bay Area. I would be completely unknown and totally ignored as elders often are. So thank heavens for the Internet ; it allows us to leap across geographical boundaries to meet and greet.

As a confirmed Luddite, I am surprised at my own dependence on and love for the internet and all that it provides---information, connections, entertainment. If I could remake time and live a fantasy life, it would be in an English village in the 20s or so, because I love the clothes and cars and (alleged) lifestyle of that time. Also I wouldn't want to live at any time before flush toilets and telephones. If I had to be old, I would be Miss Marple, snooping among the murderous neighbors of my village.

But that was a time before I was even born so, stuck in my own time, and retired to a suburban neighborhood that in no way resembles an English village, I use the tools we now have to get as much enjoyment out of each day as possible. I have always read voraciously and when a cataract and macular degeneration were threatening that pleasure, it was great to discover that my Kindle and my beloved iPad could give it back and even add to it. Where I formerly concentrated on fiction, I found a new world which allowed me to instantly research anything that came into my mind---politics, geography, history, movies and TV programs, gardening and decorating, recipes, you name it, it's available. Blogs are another window to the world outside my own life, but it don't have the patience or time for many of those I've found so far. That's why I was so pleased to find Time Goes By even though I don't remember how I found it. I have never gravitated toward organizations or websites geared to older people, but I like TGB, because it's not just for elders, but for adults.

So true. I have started to carry my online community around in my head with me. They're a witty, educated, compassionate bunch and they make really good company;).

Can I be LLL?

So, Lisa, way to send someone to the google button. Are you Living Like Larry, Literally Laughing Loudly, a Lanky Local Lesbian? Or my personal favorite, Loony Liberal Left? My ignorance of internet slang is profound, but this is why I love the web. You can seek and find the answer---or numerous answers---in minutes.

It is very difficult to be depressed when one is raking leaves left from the late Autumn. My joke around this street is that leaf raking is a 3 season sport. We rake early Autumn, into November as late as possible, and in the Spring it seems we have almost the same amount of leaves. Some oaks don't drop until Spring.

I've only recently begun writing comments to these blogs, and haven't really found my footing as of yet. However, I enjoy reading others comments and seeing a slice of others lives.

To the lady in AL waiting to see how the dark clouds act, I was in 2 hurricanes when a kid in GA so you have my sympathy and hope it doesn't turn into more than a dark cloud for you.

Ditto.

...My feelings and thoughts have been well expressed by all who wrote before me!

I would probably be in the nearest looney bin if not for the Internet. Oh, I know people lived for centuries without Twitter, but I am glad I don't have to do that. I check Twitter as soon as I get up. I have met the nicest people online & made true friends.

I reading TGB regularly, don't always comment. I truly appreciate that this is a community who enjoys each other's online companionship.

Am I expected here at the end of the day? It's so nice to know that you've got some of us figured out and we've become real people with personalities. Remember "strokes"? You have bestowed one huge good stroke on me and the rest of us by affirming that your blog is not just for you but for a circle of friends whom you seem to want to be close to. Wouldn't it be fun to be able to post video comments so expression and body language could expand the sense of community this blog inspires?

I usually check the blog in the morning and off and on during the day, but evenings give me time to reflect and ponder all the wonderful comments and, if the muse should so inspire, venture my own poor offering.

I can't help wondering what your take on this old, bedraggled Tarzana person (strange childhood name I gave myself) might be.

Thanks again for your steadfastness in a crazy, unpredictable world. No matter what, Ronni will be there.....it's good.

Ronni, I do have a big question. I love the idea of color coded email.. What email program does that? Thanks!

@Linda You can assign colored tags in Gmail. I have tags for blogging, family, business, etc.

I get depressed, anxious, and frustrated immediately if my Internet goes down. Fortunately, that happens only rarely and also, fortunately, my son is a computer expert. Good thing too, because a day offline seems like 100 years of isolation.


Thank you, Ronni, for paying it forward, and for being so there for us. Thanks to all your commenters, too; there are not many blogs around where the comments are also worth reading.

Thanks PiedType, I am going to try the color tagging.

But first, I am popping over to your website to meet you.

What defines a Senior? A certain age? 60? 65? 70?

Blogging can be a very beneficial tool for anyone; it's a really good outlet and will help relieve the tension of a busy day staving off the effects of depression and maybe even making some new friends.

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