Community//

Beyond Telehealth: Creating a New Socialization Platform for Seniors in the Age of COVID-19

With 14 million seniors aging alone, finding new ways to socialize from a distance is essential in fighting against social isolation and the health issues that come with it.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Photo by Anri Lilkov from Pexels
Photo by Anri Lilkov from Pexels

COVID-19 has affected our lives, re-defined how we interact with family and friends, and changed the face of socialization forever. As much of the world re-enters society and gets back to work, COVID-19 remains an imminent threat to the elderly population, and much of the no-contact rules and regulations are taking a toll. In the United States today, approximately 14 million seniors are aging alone. While this is unfortunately commonplace, it is also a dangerous situation. 

Even before the pandemic, the elderly population was at the highest risk for loneliness and isolation. A well-documented public health concern, long periods of isolation has been proven to place our aging adults at an increased risk of cardiovascular, autoimmune, cognitive, and mental health problems. 

Chances are, we all know at least one elderly person who is facing the golden years of their lives alone. Maybe it’s a grandparent, or family friend, or the senior who lives in your neighborhood and recently lost a spouse.  You might think about them during the holidays or say hello as you walk by their home, but what is happening to them the other days of the year?

Isolation in seniors leads to unhealthy habits like increased smoking or drinking, increased risk of Alzheimer’s, and abuse such as falling prey to financial scams. There are many reasons for seniors aging alone.  Some experience a change in family or neighborhood dynamics, transportation challenges lead to social isolation, and some seniors are more likely to experience isolation if they don’t have children and build families.  

Then came COVID-19 and forced isolation on nearly every population set outside the family unit. For younger adults in quarantine, there are plentiful options to socialize and remain connected. Video conferencing tools make staying in touch with friends and family easy, almost natural. Older adults face different challenges, and seniors are nearly left out of the technological advancements of social media. Many were born and raised before the advent of the Internet and often faced significant learning barriers, which prevent easy adoption of these same online platforms.  

Seniors need more accessible ways to connect with friends and families online. And those who may not have any family or friends need more opportunities to easily meet new people and form new friendships outside of dating sites for elderly adults. 

The same platforms and solutions that work for the younger generations need to be repurposed and simplified to meet the unique design needs of those who are older. There is a stark contrast between the digitally native young and senior adults. The gap couldn’t be more significant, but there is room to learn and grow. Young people adapt more easily to changes in technology. Of the retirees who were in professions that used technology, many are lost without the tech support their companies provided. And then there are the elderly that never had to use technology such as computers or smartphones and wouldn’t know what an app does.

While COVID-19 forces online interaction to replace face-to-face socialization entirely, it is becoming clear that creating the social activities of the past with new platforms of today can have substantial health and well-being benefits. We feel we’ve created something special and unique to bridge the gap for aging seniors and the benefits of online socialization. 

OneClick.chat is a new platform that makes technology exciting for aging adults and is created to make video-based connections easy and accessible for senior adults. For those without a social network of friends or family, OneClick.chat facilitates the ability to meet new people and make new friends. The platform offers social and educational events, discussion groups, and peer support groups. To develop this platform, we consulted with the best in the business along with experts in human factors and aging to design a simplified, accessible platform requiring no downloads or complicated Meeting ID’s to join. Successful online tools for the elderly need to be inclusive, slowing those without dedicated devices, IT skills, or support to participate. The video chat option allows participants to interact with others, enjoy facial reactions, body language, and eye contact, which enhances feelings of connection.

The nation’s aging population living alone or in nursing homes and senior living facilities were already at risk for the complications of social isolation long before COVID-19 became a household name. The pandemic has intensified and magnified the problem. Developing real solutions to meet this challenge for the elderly needs to be a priority even after life has returned to normal for the rest of the world. 

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

The Hidden Risk of Social Isolation During COVID-19

by Thomas G. Bognanno
Photo: Rodion Kutsaev/Unsplash
Community//

How Technology Keeps Caregivers Connected and Calm During COVID-19

by Sherri Snelling
Community//

Treating Senior Isolation as a Disease Will Extend Lives

by Vance Vanier

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.