You Can’t Unburn the Toast, But You Can Reboot the Computer

Spending time online reduces depression for the 55+ group by 34%, but many seniors still don’t go online. Can we – or should we – do anything about this? For the more elderly, there’s the “it’s too complicated, I’ll never be able to do this” excuse (which means “I don’t want it; don’t need it.”), and younger seniors of depression age parents who still hate to toss out a slice of burnt toast, are very afraid of breaking a computer, tablet, or even a cell phone.

seniors sharing onlineIf you’d like to encourage a senior to enjoy the benefits of social interaction with family, friends, and the world in general, the first step is to make sure they have broadband access at home or a mobile device with Internet access. Once someone has the freedom of a wireless device, even the most resistant becomes a more avid Internet user.

Social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter connect families in ways never before imagined, regardless of geographical location. Grandma no longer has to travel to share the joy of a newborn great grandson, or a granddaughter’s graduation ceremony. Email has become the bedrock of communication for seniors to share links, photos, videos, news and status updates with family, friends and colleagues.

Using new technologies to lift seniors out of depression is a boon to their health and happiness as they reconnect with people from their past or reach out for support for health problems or personal issues. If you know a senior who might benefit, many neighborhood senior centers and libraries in and around Cincinnati have computers, tablets and classes to teach web surfing, emailing, and social networking.

Ageless Love

elder romanceSaint Valentine was a priest who was martyred by Romans about 496 AD for ministering to persecuted Christians. Legend has it that, the night before his execution, he penned a message addressed to the daughter of his jailer and signed it as “Your Valentine.” Over fifteen hundred years later, Valentine’s Day is celebrated by lovers, children, and friends worldwide. But the topic of romance and the elderly remains sensitive and mired with taboos, cliches, and misconceptions.

Most of us are more comfortable thinking of older people as asexual. Grandma should love her knitting or dote on her grandchild, but not have romantic desires or intimate relationships. We wince at Betty White’s innuendos, and cringe at yet another TV ad for Viagra or Cialis. Yet, studies show that seniors desire, even need, romance in their lives.

Of course, it’s not easy for the unmarried elderly to form romantic relationships. Women outlive men by about eight years, so competition for partners in assisted living homes is fierce. Older men often seek younger women, which in turn makes women in their age group feel less attractive or desirable. On the other hand, older men worry about being perceived as less virile compared to their younger selves.

As grown children of aging parents, we worry that Dad’s new girlfriend is a gold digger with shovel in hand and eyes on the family inheritance, or that Mom’s new boyfriend has been around the block a few too many times and who knows what dreaded disease he could pass on to Mom.

However, new relationships in later years can be beautiful and a great comfort for all involved. Each relationship is unique. Some marry, others co-exist under one roof, others in separate houses, while others just see one another on occasion. Whatever the living arrangements, the closeness and intimacy can bring true joy. Everyone needs to be cared for by, and to care for, a special person.

This Valentine’s Day, send a card to an older person – whether a parent, distant relative, next door neighbor, or complete stranger. Take a stack of cards into an assisted living facility and have someone help you address and distribute them. Let’s all do what we can to support the idea of ageless love.