Friday, October 16, 2009

Elderly, And Depressed? Turn To The Internet

image by leroys, sxc.hu

A Positive Spin-Off Of This Communication Tool

The signs that you have reached “that certain age" become apparent when you discover that family members are unable to spend as much time with you as you would like them to. They are too busy with affairs of their own life to spare any time for you, and it is obviously natural, weren't you the same when you were in the prime of your age? Weren't you grappling with your own issues – job, relationships, the children – to really feel and understand and empathize what was going on in the lives of your own elders? So it is now, now the shoe is on the other foot. How happy you feel when your child calls you up long-distance or better still, when the grandchild rushes into your arms, not forgetting your birthday? But these golden moments are few and far between. Sigh.

image by ginnylynni, sxc.hu

Couple that with the shrinkage in the social circle. Once-close friends have either transited to the other dimensions or are themselves too ailing or bed-ridden to be by one's side. New friends are hard to come by, especially as the age advances. The faculties of hearing and vision and memory aren't too sharp enough to sustain relationships, you see. The shooting pains of arthritis pay put to whatever ambition one might have harbored to venture out of the house in search for scintillating company. Facilities where the elderly and the senior citizens can meet and socialize just aren't enough, as society has far more pressing concerns to invest the hard-earned taxpayer's money into. The senile is a spent force! Let's focus on the neonate and the youth and the middle-age, first. Sigh.

image by dynamix, sxc.hu

Days roll into nights, which roll back into days. Every moment becomes a heavy burden. How do you pass the time? The feeling that the world has forgotten you, that you are no longer relevant, that the only task left before you is to wait for the moment of transition, drains away all cheer. Loneliness itself is not alone; it has several friends to give it company, and one of the closest pals of loneliness is depression. Is it any surprise therefore to find the once bubbly, vivacious individual now having to experience issues of mental well-being? Is it any surprise that the medical bill in the US alone has ballooned to USD 100 billion per annum, just to tackle the one condition of depression? Sigh.

image by lilgoldwmn, sxc.hu

In this backdrop, comes relief in the form of news that the internet is proving to be an excellent antidote for the elderly to not only pass their time, but also to give purpose and meaning to existence. Washington, D.C.-based Phoenix Center for Public Policy Studies recently conducted a breakfast workshop on the impact of internet usage on the mitigation of depression among the elderly.

image by bjearwicke, sxc.hu

The workshop focused on a
study carried out by its researchers on this subject involving over 7,000 individuals who have crossed the age of 55 and are retired and no longer actively working. Confined to the four walls of their dwelling, these individuals keep in touch with their near-and-dear using the webcam and the headphone. Though the communication can never replace the warmth of flesh-and-blood, at least the communication is happening. It is both amusing and heartening to respond to the anxious questions of the daughter about how she saw on the telly that there was heavy rain in your area last night, and whether you managed to sleep well; and to assure the grandson that the sapling he had planted in the garden during his vacation visit last summer is still standing.

image by hortongrou, sxc.hu

Once the dosage of interaction with these family members is over, then, oh, there is the entire world open to explore. There are so many forums, so many social-networking sites, so many chat rooms to visit. Subjects that you had always thought you wanted to read up on, now become available to you at the click of the mouse. A good enough handle / user-id and an email account are the only tools you need, and suddenly you are right there, in the thick of the action! According to the Phoenix Center, the elderly have reported a dramatic reduction in their depression episodes because of the hours they spend on the internet.

image by clix, sxc.hu

The take-home message therefore is: if the elderly in your circle are not already computer / internet enthusiasts, introduce them to the joys of the internet. Spend a few hours with them showing them the tricks of the game. Take them to sites that they vibe well with. And as the mouse and the keyboard grow over them, watch the continuous cribbing and complaining of this ache and that pain, disappear. Depression? Be gone!

image by cieleke, sxc.hu

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely adore the elderly that we don't spend enough
    time
    with on a daily or weekly basis.

    As usual the older, smarter ones will adapt to the computer age of
    emails, pictures and facebook -- even Twitter!

    There again, the wisdom of our elders is clear as the gap is
    bridged which allows most of us to feel okay with that - yet others
    still have a knawing wish for more time - we know what little time is
    left...Spend it wisely on the wise.

    Can you remember this? Don't cry when it's over. Smile because it happened.

    ReplyDelete