As people get older, their social worlds can shrink. Children and grandchildren may live thousands of miles away. In retirement, there is no longer the daily interaction with colleagues, nor the easy opportunity for making new friends at the office. Old friends and relatives die. And, as time goes by, some older people become more housebound, not physically able to get about as easily or frequently as in their youth.
Some choose retirement villages and assisted living facilities where like-aged people can form social networks – though, for me, cutting myself off from people of a variety of ages is further limiting, to be avoided if at all possible.
If their condition allows, most older people prefer to live independently for as long as they are able, but doing so can also lead to isolation and then depression. Depression...
"… increases disability, pain, malnutrition, and drug side effects in older adults. Depressed older adults are four times more likely to develop new disabilities than non-depressed people, and also have a higher death rate (about 1-1/2 times higher).
- - The Journal-News, 10 June 2003
As baby boomers get older, even more people will be at risk for such problems, but I believe we now have one new tool to help keep older people healthier, happier and mentally fit even if their physical lives are limited (or not) - it's called blogging.
I am far from socially isolated (yet), but in the year or so since I began timegoesby.net, I’ve made new friends – real friends – from around the entire globe and, amazingly, of all ages even though this blog is concerned only with what it’s really like to get older. My blogging friends and acqaintances have opened my mind to new ideas, expanded my world-view and enriched my life in ways I would not have believed before now. I look forward to their posts and our email exchanges every day.
So imagine, if you will, a world where old people living alone (or with others, too) had easy access to this blogging world of ours, and how much it could improve their lives. Come on now, don’t tell me, when you wake in the morning or get home from somewhere, you don’t check your email and your blog for Comments right away.
We are connected to one another in a whole new way that is no less friendship for being physically separated. We matter to each other. We encourage and support one another. We learn from and are entertained by one another. And we who are ahead of the curve a bit can help ease others into this astonishing new way of connecting.
And don’t go telling me it’s not possible, that many old people have never used a computer or a keyboard, or are arthritic, or struggle with vision problems, or can’t afford a blogging service on a fixed income. All these issues can be overcome:
There are free blogging services.
There are large-key, alphabetical keyboards for those who don’t know QWERTY.
There are screen magnifiers.
There are text-to-speech readers and vice versa.
No one needs all of these devices, so the costs involved are relatively low: a computer (they are very cheap these days) and an ISP. You could make a gift of these to your father or grandmother or another old person you know who is a little lonely - and teach them how to blog.
If they tell you they have nothing to say, encourage them to tell stories from their long lives – we would all benefit from that. Show them other older bloggers’ sites – there are a bunch over there on the left of this screen ranging in age from 50 (many) to 89 (Ancient Mariner). In a short time, they’ll have plenty to say and will be making new friends in the process.
It’s too much of a time investment, you say? What else are you doing with your time, blogging? Then blog, when you get home from his place, about teaching an old man how to share his life with the world and what you learned from him. You’ll have even more to say than you do now.
In a remarkable case of serendipity, while I was thinking about this idea, David Wolfe at Ageless Marketing just this week posted some good, scientific reasons from Eide Neurolearning Blog for promoting blogging in older folks:
- Blogs can promote critical and analytical thinking.
- Blogging can be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive, and associational thinking.
- Blogs promote analogical thinking.
- Blogging is a powerful medium for increasing access and exposure to quality information.
- Blogging combines the best of solitary reflection and social interaction.
Average life expectancy in the U.S. is now 80.1 years for women, 74.8 for men and many live much longer. That time shouldn’t be wasted in loneliness and its consequent debilities.
“I blog to connect with the world outside myself that I’m trying to make sense of. I blog to keep up my spirit; to stir the spirit of others; to stir my blood, my brain, and my beliefs.”
Yes. And what if we, to whom blogging has become second nature, each took it upon ourselves to show an older person how to connect with the world outside themselves, keep up their spirits and learn the joy of stirring the spirits of others? And what if we then told other bloggers about what we’re doing, and they told more...
Think about it. And do it. You'll be happy to you did.