For any number of reasons, many seniors are socially isolated. Whether it’s an illness that keeps us at home, living in a rural area or having no one living with us, some of us just don’t have as much social interaction as we need.
Feeling alone can, unfortunately, lead to depression and increase the risk of dementia.
Oregon Health and Science University conducted a study to determine which of four methods of online communication worked best to protect against loneliness and depression: social messaging, email, video chat or instant messaging. Researchers used information from 1,400 participants over age 60 and followed up with them two years later.
Email, social media, instant messaging and not using online communication all had the same result: They didn’t do anything to fight depression.
The clear winner was Skype, an online program that puts people together face to face with video chat. Being face to face with people we know is much better than just reading a page of comments on social media or receiving a photo in an email.
Using Skype on your computer is easy. Search online for how to use Skype and follow the instructions. For a treasure trove of how-to videos, go to YouTube.com and look at the offerings from Techboomers.
Look around at Skype.com. You’ll get a Skype number, which gives you a free trial month of calls. Later, if you call someone who is also on Skype, the call is free. Otherwise you pay a small fee for calls to their cellphone.
You’ll also need a webcam and a headset or microphone. Be ready to create a Skype user name and password.
Remember to choose Private so you won’t show up online to everyone, including scammers. When in doubt, ask the senior center to hold a class on using Skype.