Benefits & Statistics
A Helping Hand addresses several social benefits through their mission – combatting feelings of isolation and loneliness, dissolving generational stereotypes, and allowing clients to remain independent. Part of this work involves donating and instructing the elderly on how to use the computer and access the internet. A recent survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project reveals (Fox 2):
- Nearly 3 in 5 online senior citizens say that the internet has improved their connections with family
- The most popular internet activity among seniors who go online is email with 93% stating they have use email.
- Health education is one of the factors that have decreased the number of senior citizens who are chronically disabled and require nursing-home care.
Potential Health Benefits
Studies show that high levels of social integration predict a slower rate of memory decline and a lower risk of incident dementia (Ertel, Glymour, and Berkman 1215). In fact, it is well documented that social integration is strongly associated with a range of positive mental health outcomes (Sum et al. 203). This may be due to the role of social support in promoting psychological well-being. Having a social network aids allows an individual to receive help from other people in coping effectively with stressful life events, providing mental stimulation, and promoting active social engagement. This is supported by the results of a study that examined seniors’ online communities. It reports that internet use is associated with higher levels of social connectivity, higher levels of perceived social support, decreased feelings of loneliness, lower levels of depression, and generally, a more positive attitude towards aging (Nimrod 383). From these studies, it is safe to infer that online social networks appear to mitigate the influence of depressive symptoms by providing a means for the elderly to receive support.
The Online Community
A part of who we are stems from our interaction in society. For senior citizens, this aspect of independence can be jeopardized by aging or declining health. However, the internet presents itself as a means to overcome these restrictions, providing an opportunity for isolated individuals to participate in social networks. The internet allows these older adults to meet one another online, maintain social relationships, and participate in a form of community. These online communities can offer respite or a distraction for the elderly that may be facing lifestyle changes or other stressors. It is reported that seniors find comfort in sharing their emotions online with empathetic peers and hypothesized that active engagement in a supportive social network can be a coping strategy when facing negative life events (Nimrod 389). Thus, seniors involved in an online social community may feel that they are still an active part of society.
The Power of Learning
The act of learning how to use a computer keeps the mind engaged. Learning to use a computer has been associated with increased self-confidence and memory retention. Recent research reveals that internet learning and use by older users makes their lives more meaningful and develops their self-evaluations and other people’s views of them (Sum et al. 216). Learning general computer and internet skills can enhance a sense of independence, a sense that may be threatened in older adults. It creates a process of empowerment as a result of the ability to access accurate information quickly. In fact, access to reliable online health information has been linked to reduced anxiety, increased feelings of self-efficacy, and to a decrease in utilization of ambulatory care (Nimrod 383).
A Concerted Endeavor
A Helping Hand cannot claim sole responsibility for these results. This organization is but one of many other organizations that aid the senior citizen population.