I recently read some interesting research that said that Internet use among older people reduces loneliness, increases social interaction and may result in a significant reduction in depression. Since we usually hear about the negative side effects of spending too much time online, I was somewhat surprised by these results and decided to ask the 40,000 women over 60 in our Sixty and Me community what they thought. Their answers were intriguing and show just how quickly our generation is catching up in terms of making technology an integral part of our lives.
Here's what I wanted to know. Does using the Internet make us feel more positive and happy? How do women over 60 use the Internet to stay connected and up-to-date on the news? Are Internet friendships as common (or as valued) by women over 60 as they are in younger demographics?
The answers were quite intriguing and surprising. Here is what we learned about why women over 60 use the Internet - and how it helps them improve their lives:
The Internet Helps Women Over 60 Find Friends (New and Long-Lost)
Social media is often criticized for being a shallow, impersonal form of communication that is only of interest to attention-deficient young people - but the truth is, many women over 60 are finding their online relationships to be of real benefit to their lives.
Women over 60 are meeting valuable friends online who they would otherwise never have gotten to meet. One woman commented that she now has friends all over the world, in different time zones, and that she is thrilled to know these precious people.
One of the most amazing stories we heard was from a woman who said that she is traveling to the U.S. to meet with her long-lost first love - and she was able to re-connect with him via the Internet. They have been e-mailing and communicating for over a year, and have decided to meet again in person.
The Internet Helps Women Create a Support Network
Making friends on Facebook and social networking sites makes it easier to find new friends, stay in touch with old friends, and also mobilize a support network. Women over 60 often face some unique life challenges based on the stage of life that they are in - dealing with the illness and death of parents, our own illness or recovery from injury or surgery, or even the illness or death of a spouse. Internet social networks can help women over 60 quickly "rally the troops" and get help when they need it.
We heard from one woman, who just lost her husband a few weeks ago. She said that she is grateful for social media, because it has become a tool in her arsenal to work through her grief. She said that she has made a list of all the people who offered (via social media) to help and support her after her husband's death, and she is rotating through the list so she's not relying too heavily on any one person or group of people.
The Internet Helps Women Over 60 Stay Intellectually Stimulated
Women over 60 love to keep learning, growing and trying new experiences. For one of our community members, having an iPad has made it easier for her to stay connected to news, information and even her favorite family photos wherever she goes. She commented that her iPad is her best friend next to her husband. Whether she's at home or on the go, she said that there is never a dull moment because her Internet-connected iPad makes it possible to communicate, read, research and stay entertained wherever she is.
One of the biggest misconceptions that I have seen over and over again since starting Sixty and Me is that people over 60 are out of touch with technology. The truth is that Boomers are a part of one of the fastest growing demographics in terms of usage of social media and other technologies. But, women over 60 are not just joining social media because everyone else is. They are getting real benefits from their time online including finding new friendships, building a support network, learning new things and having fun!
What are some of the ways that the Internet and social media have changed your life? Who are your favorite people who you've met through social media? Let us know in the Comments or in the Sixty and Me Forum for women over 60.