Depression, Elders and the Internet
The Technology Elders Use – And Don't

The Possibilities of the Internet

Marc Leavitt keeps a blog, is a regular contributor to The Elder Storytelling Place and is one of those TGB readers who has become an email friend.

We live a continent apart so we are unlikely to meet in person unless, as you will see below, I visit the east coast which, given the pain and exhaustion of air travel these days, is not something I easily do.

In response to yesterday's post here about the importance of the internet to elders' health and well-being, Marc sent a compelling note about how he lives today in retirement and the wonderful things the internet gives him.

In the most positive way, he explains how impoverished his life would be without it. So with Marc's permission, I am reprinting his note here:

It’s 8:49AM here in central New Jersey. The kitchen, where I have my computer set up, is filled with early morning sunshine, the windows are open and the only sounds are the twitter of birds and the hum of the refrigerator.

I revel in the silence and peace. If I believed in the Invisible Man in the Sky, I would say that I am blessed; since I don’t, I’ll just say that I am content.

If I have learnt anything on this journey, it is that I have learnt to forgive myself for not being, doing and trumpeting all that others expect of me. I spent many years trying to please parents, wives, friends and strangers. Now I please myself and often, I’m successful.

In Candide, Voltaire’s hero sets out on a voyage of discovery and after many vicissitudes, returns home enriched by the knowledge that, “Il faut cultiver nos jardins” (We have to nourish our own patch of ground).

It’s a hard lesson that most people never learn. The world is a large and various place; if we can make a small dent, based on our own abilities, not those others say we should have, then we’ve done well.

Another Frenchman, Joachim du Bellay, wrote a poem some four hundred years ago, in which he said, “Heureux, qui comme Ullysse, a fait un beau voyage.” (Happy is the man (woman), who like Ulysses, has had a beautiful trip). I’ve always remembered that, especially under adverse circumstances.

That’s a long preamble to say that I agree with you.

I live alone today and like you and a myriad of others, most of my first family (parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts) have died. And friends and acquaintances drop off the planet in increasing numbers.

Because of a fall resulting in a broken neck, my ability to do all of the things retirees tell themselves they’ll do in retirement (travel, audit courses at nearby Rutgers University, go out to dinner, attend plays, concerts, the opera, train into the City to walk the streets and visit exhibits at the museums) are largely activities I engaged in in the past.

(Think getting on a train with a cane or walker, negotiating the stairs and concourse at Penn Station, getting on and off the subway or standing on line for a taxi, getting into the Metropolitan and walking through the exhibit hall and then reversing the process on my way home.)

Yes, a lot of that is still possible with careful planning and alternatives but do I really want to do that?

Here’s a thumbnail of how my life would be without the Internet and how I would fill my time:

Daily reading – fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, magazines. Writing - poetry, prose. Painting and drawing. Listening to my extensive library of LPs - classical, folk, Broadway. Television and last but not least, talking to myself (I have a gift for accents - I can be British, Irish, Scottish, French, German...)

The internet provides an alternate universe of possibilities and an opportunity to meet a variety of people such as yourself in a virtual reality which, after all, in some ways is no different from meeting at a pub or coffeehouse or talking on the telephone or writing letters.

And the internet also gives me (us) the opportunity to select out the type of people I (we) wish to associate with.

For example, I’m very interested in linguistics and the whole universe of language (I speak four languages with varying degrees of fluency). Without the internet, I would have to work very hard to find people with similar interests. With the internet, they’re only a click away.

Since retiring in 2010, I’ve made friends (or at least, friendly acquaintances) of people in England, Ireland and across the U.S., all of whom are interested in the fine points of language.

Ronni here again. As I mentioned to Marc in a return email, his note about his interest in language reminded me of my first taxi ride in New York City many decades ago.

When I told the driver I had just moved to town, he told me that if what you care about is one in a million, there are seven more people in New York City just like you.

As we now know, on the internet, there are even more of them just like you to choose from.

After reading Marc's note, I wondered what opportunities and possibilities you have found online that were difficult or non-existent before you discovered the internet.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: Close Encounters of the Baby Garter Snake Kind


There are many things that come to mind, but the first thing I thought about was the ease with which you can get an airline reservation on line. Set aside the small glitches & fumbles, it is one of the "awesome" additions to our lives. Like you, travel is quite low on my list of things doable, but back when I was traveling, printing off the boarding pass at home or in the motel was mind-boggling. Thanks to you & Marc for this blog posting today. Always good stuff here. Dee

Hi to Marc,
I am a constant reader and only
an occasional commenter. I'd like to say how much I enjoy your poems. I also write poems.
Other poets feel like family.

In addition to blogging I discovered the world of message boards where I can voice my opinions 24/7. I started out on support message boards and became a moderator and mentor at a very large site. Did that for many years. That experience enriched my knowledge tenfold in terms of learning my way around cyberspace. Now, I hone my debating skills at political sites which keeps my mind from vegetating. I live alone and still miss the interaction of "real" people but without the internet I would be SO cut off. I jump online while my morning coffee is making.

Love the letter you posted today, Ronni. What an interesting gentleman!

Marc's poems are wonderful, and the subject matter reinforces the message in this post. If his poetic messages result in any small changes for the better in the world it will be a valuable accomplishment. If not, the fact that he creates them should be satisfying enough.

As a foreigner in Spain, I'd be lost without the internet. Here are some of its benefits to me:

Importing books from UK;
importing British goods generally if I can't get similar here; visiting the world's art galleries; Skyping old friends; keeping up to date with world news; learning about gardening in the Mediterranean and seeing others' beauties world-wide on their gardening blogs; great musical gigs on YouTube; playing Scrabble with an old school friend; contributing to a community forum and reading about what's going on; a regular reliance on Google Translate for those tricky situations.

Love Marc's stuff - I see his comments on others' blogs. And it's interesting to read here how important the internet is to others.

I agree with everything Marc wrote, but today I had two immensely practical uses for the internet. I received a phone call telling me of the death of one of my fellow co-workers. So many people who would want to know are retired, have moved etc. and with the help of Facebook and e-mail I was able to spread the word immediately.
As I read the BBC news this morning I followed a link which led me to a long-desired link. British food! I can order pickled onions, Branston pickle— so many foods I have yearned for.
Yes, the Internet is great.

In addition to having the connection to people via a myriad of avenues, I love the access to information about almost anything I want to know about at any given moment. I can sift through many sources to choose the answer I seek. The implications are so far reaching. I think the biggest comfort is knowing that when I can no longer do some of the things I like to do, I will still have access to the world of information tailored to my needs and desires at any given moment. What a gift!

I dislike the telephone, so the internet has become my preferred way to communicate, make purchases (not nuts about shopping either), and - unfortunately - waste time. I was able to move away from Portland traffic because my work with dog rescue can be done online. And like Marc - I've found communities of open minded people who are a joy to interact with and keep me stimulated.

I've found more truly helpful information online when I returned to art than I got in college, although the camaraderie and growth of working with other students is not there, I've made a few artist friends who I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. And when my cell phone service disappeared two days ago (provider problem, not phone) it only bothered me a teensy bit because I have e mail and TGB.

How do I love the Internet? Let me count the ways.

1. Making new friends.

2. Keeping in touch with old friends. (Now that I can't read my own handwriting being able to send e-mail is a godsend although I do make more typos now, I fear.)

3. Being able to shop on line now that I am unable to get to stores.

4. Researching medical and other information easily.

5. Keeping up with politics and world news.

6. Streaming movies I would never see otherwise.

7. Being able to enlarge the type on E newspapers as opposed to trying to read the small newsprint on the morning paper.

8. Having fun playing games. I like the jigsaw puzzles.

9. Learning new things to keep the old brain cells active.

10. Visiting museums like the Smithsonian digitally.

I could continue with more, but I think this is enough to prove that I would be lost without the Internet.

Marc Leavitt is a fascinating writer and you are both the richer for having each other as friends.

It connects me with friends I might have lost otherwise, and given me new ones as well, such as you Ronni.

As I age I am home more and more. Traveling is not easy; I need help to carry my cPap and asthma & arthritis meds, much less a suitcase. Body is kind of shot doesn't look it but doesn't work well. With the internet I keep almost daily contact with my sisters, some grandkids, and friends.

There's blogging! And shopping, our town is small and remote. Tourist shops or Walmart and a Macy's. More and more things I like are no longer carried here so order them on the internet. Order enough and the shipping is free. Its cheaper to online order the lotion I use than to drive 60 miles to buy it in a larger town. Same price no gas expense, I save that for special "big city" trips. away.

News, and views from around the world, such a broader perspective. Research. Found out about the IE problem online, wasn't in our lame local paper.

I am lost without my smart phone. It is definitely my portable computer that I take everywhere. I no longer have a camera because I use the one on my phone for all my photos and can send them immediately to anywhere around the world. I even write my blog posts from my smart phone when I have a photo I want to use but don't want to put the photo on my computer.

So many things come to mind off the top of my head. Among them:

The quick and easy access to any kind of information whether it relates to something I'm writing about, a health question, computer issue, driving directions, weather, potential employer, former classmate or friend, museum hours, possible purchase, home repairs, etc., etc.

The ability to pay bills without having to lick stamps, seal envelopes, travel to a mailbox or the post office, and worry about whether my payment will get lost in the mail.

YouTube videos -- an entire universe and time machine all by itself.

Access to incredible humor, creativity, and expertise that would otherwise remain hidden to me.

Reading the NY Times online.

Expanding my understanding of a subject through visitor comments. Conversely, being appalled at the ignorance and vitriol that many commentators feel free to express behind the cloak of anonymity.

The opportunity to reach a world-wide audience without spending an arm and a leg.

Online dating but only OK Cupid.

Sharing my photography with both professionals and amateurs across the globe whose own work blows me away.

The ease of communication, though I’m one of those people who still prefers the give-and-take of phone conversation to email.

Absolutely no Facebook or tweets for me.

I could probably spend the rest of the day adding to this list but then I wouldn’t be able to waste more time on the web, now would I?


Ah, the Internet. What a marvelous invention. It's put a world of information at my fingertips. No longer does a question require a trip to the library or a peek at an outdated encyclopedia. The moment a question pops into my head, my fingers hit the keyboard and the answer is there.

I can fire off email to family and know they'll have it in seconds instead of three days. And I can send the same letter to all of them as easily as to one.

I can shop easily at home for the smallest, most obscure items instead of having to drive to a mall, park, and walk from store to store hoping maybe I'll find it. Good lord, the hours I used to waste trying to find this or that.

Online banking is great. I was cautious at first, concerned about security and all, but now I've fully embraced receiving and paying bills electronically. Quickly, easily, and for free. And some of them automatically. Never a missed payment or late fee.

And of course, blogging. I hate saying I'm a blogger, because I don't really do it for other people. I do it because I love to write and I love graphic art. I like the process, the mechanics. It's all play to me, like a sandbox for a retired editor. Compared to the way things used to be done, with paper and typewriters and dummies of publications that were literally cut and paste.

I love technology and what it's given me -- even if much of it leaves me bewildered and frustrated.

Online, I can find sites that suggest "art challenges". They furnish the incentive to pick up a colored pencil or dip into a watercolor ~~ I can give myself permission then to relax and have fun !!

Also, better than maintaining an old habit of sofa lounging to watch almost anything on TV after supper, I really enjoy checking out Ronni's elder blog list.

I greatly appreciate both Ronni's and Marc's postings today, but can I be slightly contrary for a moment? As much as I benefit from the Internet, I have also spent a lot of my life overseeing students who leap immediately to it for all answers and knowledge, and aside from the fact that that can lead one astray, it also makes me remember how much fun I have had over my life fooling around in libraries and finding things on my own. That can be deeply satisfying to me. And it reminds me of Garrison Keillor's 'Writers' Almanac" yesterday and his brief tribute to Harper Lee.

Here it is:
"It's the birthday of novelist Harper Lee (books by this author), born Nelle Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama (1926). She has written just one novel, To Kill A Mockingbird (1960), but it has sold more than 30 million copies. She hates interviews and speeches, and prefers to live quietly in Monroeville, where she is known as Miss Nelle.

She wrote: "I arrived in the first grade, literate, with a curious cultural assimilation of American history, romance, the Rover Boys, Rapunzel, and The Mobile Press. Early signs of genius? Far from it. Reading was an accomplishment I shared with several local contemporaries. Why this endemic precocity? Because in my hometown, a remote village in the early 1930s, youngsters had little to do but read. A movie? Not often — movies weren't for small children. A park for games? Not a hope. We're talking unpaved streets here, and the Depression. [...] Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. Instant information is not for me. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it."

I have really enjoyed reading the comments (and commentary) today. I'm curious about what websites, blogs, etc. you (Ronni and readers) find valuable, inspirational, etc.. Ronni's links (Where Elders Blog) have led me to some nice blogs by elders. But I would also like to find intelligent commentary about what is going on in the world from both sides of the political spectrum without having to endure name calling, labeling, and vulgarity. A couple of you mentioned sites that encourage your artwork. How did you find these? Perhaps I'm just not googling the right words. But, point in case, I only happened upon TGB through a casual mention in a comment in another blog!

It would be impossible for me to top all the ways I love the Internet. The comments here are doing a better job than I could.

I love being able to stay in touch with my far flung family - brother, sister, their kids, my great-nieces and nephews. I love the photos and the comments about daily life.

I love the news sites; my friends joke that I am their personal clipping service because I am always finding items of interest and sharing them.

I started visiting the world's great museums via the Internet, started writing about them in my blog and eventually got a "job" writing about art for an Internet newspaper. I have met so many wonderful local artists and art people - a whole that opened up because of my blog

Shopping - books and comfy clothes for my larger size body.

Last, but not least, this blog which has given me so much enjoyment and information. For that reason alone, I feel lucky to be alive, here, now.

I love the Internet! Since I retired i have started learning Spanish. Almost all of my resources are on the Internet. I have found native speaking teachers and language partners on I talk to them and have my lessons using Skype. I practice writing in Spanish and have natives correct my writing on
I especially like the encouragement, resources and help i receive at

In addition to so many of the things already mentioned (shopping, banking, blogging, travel info and reservations, maps, streaming movies -- I watched the whole of Bergman's Persona on YouTube recently), I also like Facebook as it has deepened some acquaintanceships into friendships.

Instagram is lovely too for pictures of the grand-kids. And when there's big news in the world or just a local blizzard, there's nothing like Twitter for quick updates.

Oh, and for free classical (or other) music through my computer. (CBC is public radio in Canada.) The world at our fingertips: how lucky we are!

I've been retired for six years, and sometimes I wonder how I would ever be able to fit an actual JOB into the life I have today. I can google anything I desire, and often when watching a show on TV and want to know what happened to someone, I open up my ever-present laptop and find out.

The world of blogging was a discovery I never expected: I have an actual virtual FAMILY who loves me, and who I care about as well. I read this blog every day and especially look forward to Saturday's "Interesting Stuff" to see what you've put out there.

My life is incredibly enriched because of the Internet. I never expected to love Facebook as much as I do, but my family and absent friends are right there, so I log in at least once a day.

I don't know why my comments keep disappearing so I won't do a long post. It's frustrating! But love the Internet for all the reasons so eloquently stated by the rest of the commentators.

Everything said above, plus what a treat to have wifi when we travel.

Thanks to the internet, I learned how to format and publish my book.

I love reading news online, and using trip advisor to find out about hotels and restaurants on our travels.

Everything I would say has already been said very well by others who responded earlier today. I will add that I enjoy the internet immensely but at times find the volume of email (work + personal) and the sheer quantity of information a little overwhelming. However, that is probably indicative of my limitations, time-wise and technologically.

A shout out for MOOCs -- free fabulous online university courses -- I'm currently studying Beethoven's Sonatas (Coursera); Public Speaking (U of Washington); Understanding Dementia (U of Tasmania-see NYT article). There's an incredible array of courses that are being accessed worldwide!

Thank you, Marc, for mentioning the importance of self examination (and resultant prize, such as contentment), usually a dual endeavor between our heart and head. While an avid internet user, at times I know it's to avoid my life's deeper, undefined corners.

Mostly, as mentioned above, the internet frees up my time by making searches easy, serves as a great solitary morning coffee venue with virtual companionship, countless discoveries and delights, can keep boredom and unwanted snoozing from happening and encourages or provides most any information I want.

I've always loved research and with the advent of the internet, anything I want to know is a click away. It's magic and I love it so much!

When I was 52 in 1988, I got a job with a company that created software for hospital dietaries. My job was to test the program, trying to find glitches and to respond to early morning pager calls from customers having problems with the program. It was TERRIFYING. They kinda threw me into the software ocean and said "sink or swim"! It was my introduction to the electronic age, and I flunked. I think that the young things that were my peers and above enjoyed seeing the "old lady" struggle to learn. I quit before the inevitable came. But, rather than scare me away from technology, it gave me a little techie vocabulary and the confidence to know that if they could do it, so could I...but at my own speed.

I got my first cell phone in 1999 and my first computer the next year. I've been in love with technology and the internet ever since. Today, at 78, I have all the toys and use them for just about everything they can do, learning new apps all the time. My iPad saved my sanity during an extended hospitalization. My smart phone is my portable computer. My GPS makes traveling to visit family and do genealogy research possible....and on and on.

All of which is to confirm that, for me, adopting personal electronics probably was enabled by a job related introduction, traumatic though it was.

I also frequently use my medical group's excellent internet access to messaging my doc , getting and comparing test results and making appointments. It really breaks down barriers to communication.

My 84 yr old hubby has his iPad in his lap all day and plays poker via computer every night. He still needs me to help him do email attachments or move files, but electronic gadgets loom large in his life as well.

Oops. The above comment (long winded story) was meant for today's blog. Somehow my bad eyes and google search put me on a day late. Oh well, I still love the internet and I still love your blog.

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