Guest Post By Kelsey Rausch
In the United States, one in four older adults suffers from a fall every year, and millions of seniors suffer from some form of dementia. Unfortunately, physical and mental threats aren’t the only obstacles faced by seniors in 21st Century America.
For countless seniors, there’s an even bigger threat: loneliness.
In a new report published this month by KQED Science, the AARP Foundation reported that up to 40% of Americans over the age 65 will experience “significant loneliness.” And isolation doesn’t just take an emotional toll. Human beings are hardwired to be social creatures; lack of meaningful contact and affection can cause profound depression and exacerbate existing medical problems.
KQED Science reporter Kara Platoni spoke with 71-year-old immigrant Orazgul Tachmuradova, who told her she struggled to adapt to her lonely new life in San Francisco.
“My eyes are not good, my hearing’s not good, my English is not good,” Tachmuradova said. After a life spent close to family, she was “slowly dying of disconnection.” She told KQED she remembers thinking, “This world does not belong to me; I do not belong to this world.”
However, things started to turn around when the Curry Senior Center in San Francisco launched a program last year that gave modern technology to seniors. With help from iPads, FitBits, and other gadgets, residents at the center began to re-engage with the world.
And, increasingly, senior advocates are embracing technology as a way to combat loneliness in senior communities. To that end, the AARP recently launched its own social media site, Connect2Affect, to help bring together a community of seniors and caregivers.
Likewise, to help seniors embrace modern technology like social media, more senior centers and technology companies are joining forces to teach technology classes. At the Clinton Rose Senior Center in Milwaukee, ATandT employees recently visited to teach a class about smartphone use.
Around the country, people are slowly realizing that seniors can benefit from social media and smart technology as much, if not more, as everyone else.
Kelsey Rausch is a writer and an avid world traveler. When she’s not writing or listening to 80s music, you can find her exploring different countries, taking selfies with her dog Lady, and in constant search for the perfect brownie recipe.