Keeping in Touch Through Technology
If you feel lonely from time to time, you aren’t the only one who feels that way. The New York Times reported that loneliness is a growing health epidemic. How does a “feeling” become a physical health issue? According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, older adults who report being lonely or not having enough desired social interaction experience a decline in physical and mental health over time. In fact, personal habits like bathing, grooming and cooking start to decline faster in older adults who feel left out of social situations or cut off from family or friends. Loneliness also may lead to higher levels of stress hormones and inflammation, which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, dementia and even suicide attempts.
So what can you do so you don’t feel alone? Try to stay connected to your friends, family and loved ones, even if they don’t live near you. “Easier said than done,” you’re thinking. Maybe it’s been a while since you talked to a certain person and you feel funny reaching out to them now. What would you talk about after all this time? Or maybe you’ve given up calling your kids or working friends because they’re so busy with their jobs and families, you hate to bother them. Remember the song from the Bell System (later AT&T) commercials, “Reach out and touch someone”? Staying in touch with your loved ones used to be harder. Thanks to modern technology, it’s much easier now.
Here are some ways to stay in touch with your loved ones:
Many smartphones have cameras and built-in systems that allow you to video call. Or if your phone doesn’t have this built-in feature, you can download a free app that will allow you to do it.
- If you have an iPhone, you might be familiar with FaceTime, a built-in feature that allows you to make video calls to other people who have iPhones.
- Video calling is also available on tablets, laptops and desktop computers. You can download video calling software at no cost to you. Try Skype, ooVoo, Talky and Google Hangouts.
- If you don’t have a device with a camera, you can buy a camera online or at your local retailer (Walmart, Target, BestBuy, etc.) and attach it to your laptop or desktop through a USB cable.
More traditional methods:
- Phone calls: Picking up the phone and calling your loved ones has never been so easy. With mobile phones, it’s easy to stay in touch with friends and family, even on the go.
- Texting: Texting is an easy and fast way to say hello or just check in on your loved ones.
- Email: Email is great if time differences are an issue when staying in touch with loved ones. Send pictures, stories, attachments and videos with ease.
- Social media: Using platforms like Facebook and Instagram make sharing pictures, videos and life updates easy. If you haven’t used forms of social media before, ask your grandkids if they can give you a hand.
- Exercise: If you’re a Florida Blue Medicare Advantage member, use your fitness benefit and join a SilverSneakers class at a gym near you. Exercise is a great way to meet up with your friends (or make new ones!).
- Groups: You can also use technology to connect with people near you. Look for a group to join, or start your own meetup group on https://www.meetup.com/. Finding a group at your local community center is an easy way to get connected and stay out of the heat. Ideas for groups include book club, bridge club, investment club or anything that interests you.
Check out our other blog to learn more about why it’s important to maintain relationships and the ties that bind.
Staying in touch with people and socializing also has some surprising health benefits:
- Fewer mental health issues: Being social keeps your mind active and helps prevent conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Better physical health: Socially active people tend to be more physically active. When you are with friends or family, you are more likely to make healthier choices.
- Longer life: Live longer and happier by having a good group of friends. Loved ones are there to support you and take stress off of you.
- Feeling like you belong: By maintaining relationships through technology, it allows you to feel like you have a support system. Even though your family and friends may not be there in-person, they are still able to be there for you through communication.
- Less isolation and loneliness: Staying connected with people helps you stay positive and decreases your risk for feelings of loneliness and depression.
Don’t let distance get in the way of your relationships. These relationships not only play a key role in keeping you happy. They also keep you healthy! Keep forming new connections and continue old ones through the power of technology.
If you or someone you know is struggling with loneliness, reach out for help. Your Medicare Advantage health plan includes mental health coverage. Florida Blue works with New Directions to offer you behavioral health resources. Learn more about your symptoms and find support tools by visiting the New Directions Resource page on ndbh.com. You can also call 1-866-287-9569, Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET. TTY users, call 1-800-955-8770.
Filed under: Medicare News