Elder Care: The (Virtual) World Is Your Oyster

The wedding, of social worker Sandra Nohavicka -- who works with many homebound patients in New York -- was broadcast on YouTube. Her online guests included many of her patients, like Juliana, who is homebound with congenital heart failure and like Mary, who has cerebral palsy, lives on her own, and has limited mobility.

This is a dramatic example of the many daily ways those with limited mobility can use the computer -- especially for social networking -- to combat the isolation, loneliness, depression and anxiety that can come with aging alone at home, and that can be compounded by physical or behavioral illness.

While social networking use has proliferated among all age groups, America's seniors, those age 65 and older, are the fastest-growing group to embrace it. The Pew Research Center found that social networking among internet users ages 65 and older doubled -- from 13 percent to 26 percent -- between April 2009 and May 2010. (And social media use has skyrocketed in the two years since this report came out.)

For the young and able-bodied, online networking is an invaluable tool of commerce, social life and entertainment. For those whose social circles have diminished because of age, illness or limited mobility, social networking can be a bridge out of isolation and depression.

Facebook, is a favorite. Such sites help people build support systems, make friends, reacquaint themselves with old friends, connect with family, and connect over shared interests. For many, aging brings a natural thinning of one's social community, as friends, too, get older and themselves are less mobile and suffer illnesses.

Jessica, who is in her 70s, uses her computer to expand her social circles, to chat, share ideas, time and expertise, and join with others to go to theater and political events. "I see many more plays and go to more political events than ever before," she says, explaining that her chat groups expand her social circle and increase her social options.

"If someone's a playwright or theater person, they're always offering to pick you up an extra ticket. Before Google groups, the word didn't go out to everybody. Now it does."

While Jessica is active and mobile, the group was a great boon when she was not. "I broke my leg last year, and this group was amazing," she recalls.

"I put out one message, and everyone came visiting. It was great to know that if I run into trouble, there are all these people available to me."

Here are a few suggestions on places to start:

The brainchild of elderblogger guru Ronni Bennet, Time Goes By is a robust clearinghouse for all things related to aging and has an invaluable list of hundreds of elder blogs.

The Ageless Project also features a list of bloggers in their 70s and 80s, including one of the oldest, Millie Garfield, 86, whose site My Mom's Blog features Yiddish lessons, videos on the frustration of modern-day packaging, and more.

Google your favorite hobby, and see what comes up. Like to knit? Join the community at Ravelry.com. Retired academic? Check out academic research at Academia.edu (or the website of your university, which probably has a robust online community).

Use the virtual world to make real-world connections. For David, a musician whose depression had isolated him from his lifelong passion, a VNSNY behavioral health nurse connected him to Concerts in Motion, which brings performances to those who are homebound or hospitalized.

For more go to: Huffington Post

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