The coronavirus has changed the way we connect, especially older people who are at high risk of catching the virus. Fortunately, technology has made it possible to stay in touch with friends, family and other support networks, even during times when isolation is a safety measure.
“Seniors depend on a multidimensional support network that enables a wide variety of ways to stay physically and mentally healthy,” says Travis Duncan, executive director of Mirabella, a retirement community in South Lake Union. “We’ve had to get creative over the past 18 months, but that’s not a bad thing. Some of the changes we’ve made, offering exercise classes and online social events, will stay in place because our residents value the convenience of participating at home. “
There is ample evidence that aging adults who focus on six dimensions of personal well-being (emotional, professional, physical, social, intellectual and spiritual) live longer and healthier lives, regardless of the state of the world, in most of the cases. And technology is helping to expand these important support networks.
Here are four ways seniors can stay connected and maintain a support network that encompasses the six dimensions of personal well-being.
1. Take your social life online
The stereotype of older people as unsuspecting technology users is proving out of date. A recent survey by the Pew Research Institute found that 82% of 65-69 year olds are internet users, and two-thirds report having a high-speed internet connection at home. Since the pandemic, more and more seniors are using – and loving – Zoom to chat over a cup of coffee, lunch dates and happy hours that previously took place in person.
You don’t have to give up planning parties on the town – only now, everything from the Seattle Symphony to Seattle city hall events will come to you. Order take out at your favorite restaurant and sit down for a special night out, without worrying about driving somewhere or getting dressed!
2. Stay involved in your community
Community involvement is an essential part of successful aging, helping older people to feel that they have some autonomy in their lives.
“At Mirabella, we have 30 resident committees and task forces, and almost everyone belongs to at least one,” Duncan says. “They sometimes meet in person, but some residents actually prefer to meet on Zoom, from the comfort of their couch. Especially those who suffer from a cold or are having a bad day with arthritis.
Mirabella committees are made up of seven to 15 residents who meet to discuss different aspects of the six dimensions of personal well-being. Groups discuss everything from meals and nutrition, to exercise and fitness, to spirituality and maintenance of the facilities. The most popular group is the Programming Committee, which brings together guest speakers, musicians and other entertainment. During the pandemic, events were strictly online and now they are offered both in person and through Zoom.
3. Connect with others who share your interests
Online discussion groups are a great way to expand your social circle and your mind. Seniors connect with other vibrant adults around the world through these virtual communities, each with their own flavor. Some online groups discuss books or music, some offer emotional support to widows or caring for a chronically ill spouse, still others have a light and humorous flair. There is something for every taste !
SeniorNet RoundTable Discussions has some great tips and tricks for getting the most out of online communities. Members have access to secure discussion forums, as well as a wide variety of online events for seniors. The ThirdAge online community for seniors offers courses and articles on health, news, relationships, money and beauty, as well as discussion forums. Buzz50 has a variety of groups that you can browse and find one that matches your interests. Older is Wiser offers articles, discussion forums, blogs, and even contests.
4. Take an online course
During the pandemic, online learning has become the norm for people of all ages. Research shows that lifelong learning is essential for aging well, contributing to a healthy physical, cognitive and socially healthy lifestyle.
Mirabella has a partnership with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Washington. Residents have access to a wide range of courses, conferences, study groups and special events. A full schedule of around 20 classes in fall, winter and spring offers residents an active and engaged lifestyle that benefits the six dimensions of well-being. Some topics from previous courses have included:
- Secret lives of the birds we love
- America in the Golden Age
- JS Bach: The progress of a musical mind
- Presidential powers
- Museum masterpieces in the United States
- Stars: science and stories
“Many people of all ages find it difficult to build a full support network on their own, especially in recent months,” says Duncan. “Part of the beauty of living in a senior community is that we provide easy access to options in all six dimensions of wellness. “
Mirabelle is a proudly nonprofit life plan community for Seattle seniors. Our location in South Lake Union provides a thriving urban environment for active seniors who seek an active and engaging lifestyle with the peace of mind of onsite health services.