Social networking for the elderly
Are you above 60 years of age, retired and suffering from the empty nest syndrome? Or are you living with your children and grandchildren and yet finding yourself bored and lacking physical energy and enthusiasm? If your answer is `yes` to either of these questions, take heart in the fact that you are not alone in feeling like this. Millions of elderly people all over the world face a similar situation.
Advances in healthcare and socioeconomic growth have resulted in an increase in the average lifespan of people everywhere in the world and significantly so in India. In the last couple of decades, the number of the elderly – people above the age of 60 years – has grown in India to 83.5 million or about 7.5 percent of the total population. This is estimated to reach 94.8 million in the next two years.
An increase in lifespan gives rise to the question of quality of life for the elderly. Traditionally, the joint family system in Indian society and a culture of providing care and respect for the elderly have provided a support system for our senior citizens. In return, the elders in a family were a cohesive force, guiding the younger members through important decisions and milestones and providing valuable support such as taking care of the grandchildren. As a result, the elderly derived emotional support from the family and also led a busy life.
However, with changing times, the joint family system is gradually withering. This can be attributed to two factors. Younger family members often migrate for work to other places. Also, socioeconomic and cultural changes mean that members of the younger generation often prefer to live in nuclear families rather than with their elders. The elderly thus find themselves coping with the empty nest syndrome, along with associated financial, physical, medical and emotional issues. Even those among the elderly who live in joint families may not always get the emotional support and active lifestyle that are important for their physical and mental health. The resultant isolation can lead to problems such as depression, which in turn increases the risk of mortality.
One simple solution to the complex issues faced by the elderly after retirement is social networking. A social network is a social structure consisting of individuals and organizations tied together by common values, visions and ideas. Social networking can benefit you in several different ways. It provides emotional support as well as opportunities for stimulating interactions. It also motivates positive behavioral changes, leading to increased feeling of happiness. Isolated living, on the other hand, leads to loneliness and can in turn cause depression.
Several population-based studies have indicated that social networking has a positive correlation with physical and mental well-being. One such study involving a sample of men and women aged 65 years and older has suggested that depressive symptoms are inversely related to the size of the individual’s social network. Another five-year study done among a group of women 78 years and older has indicated that the incidence of dementia (a brain disorder commonly manifested as memory loss) is lower among women who socialize with family and friends.
There are many avenues available for social networking. You could take up a hobby class and engage in activities like reading, cooking, gardening, traveling, etc with like-minded people. Join a health club or a yoga class, or organize to take a walk daily in a nearby park with some friends. You’ll not only stay fit this way but also feel more energetic. Community based services are another avenue to keep busy. Offer to volunteer in a school, hospital or clinic nearby or within your community. In a deeply religious and culture oriented country like India, places of worship for social networking are also a very popular option.
By taking the initiative to seek the support and companionship of people whose company you enjoy, you can considerably improve the quality of your life, and feel more happy and alive in the bargain!
Powered by Bolohealth