The news surrounding COVID-19 has been disheartening and difficult. The isolation factor has been hanging heavy on everyone’s shoulders, especially older adults—where there is more concern because they may live alone without the means to socialize, and loneliness might exacerbate other health conditions. There is, however, some glimmering positive news. The Chicago Sun-Times reports on how grandparents are going digital during stay-home orders. This trend of older adults turning to technology falls in line with research that finds that high social technology use is associated with better self-rated health, fewer chronic illnesses, high subjective well-being, and fewer depressive symptoms.
The Sun-Times reports that some older adults are turning to technology, picking up smartphones and tablets to entertain young grandchildren with silly faces and piano lullabies over FaceTime. Other grandparents are asking their grandchildren to keep a journal, so that later they can catch up on all the lost moments. Some are trying out virtual socializing by joining church congregations with video-messaging programs.
Research has found that turning to socialization via technology like this can be effective at reducing loneliness; other studies show that online social participation can buffer the detrimental effect of depression. Any isolated older adult who has a smartphone or internet access can tap into personal connections to help them get through a difficult period.
Whitehust L. Grandparenting goes digital as coronavirus keeps older adults home. Chicago Sun-Times. March 31 2020. https://chicago.suntimes.com/2020/3/31/21200498/digital-grandparenting-coronavirus-keeps-older-adults-home-health
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Ang S. Going online to stay connected: online social participation buffers the relationship between pain and depression. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B (2019); Vol. 74(6): 1020–1031.