Digital Communication for Seniors– the antidote to social isolation

by MPC Foundation

We are all grappling with a brand new world order, and true to our instincts as a human race, we all adapt and we do so quickly. So, at the start of the pandemic, the question and challenge before us were how do we still provide social connections for seniors who were actively participating in programs in the community? For many of us, the answer is simple – let’s go digital. In reality, that was easier said than done, or so we thought.

We were pleasantly surprised. Surprised at the eager embrace of technology and that for the most part, not as many as we had thought had recurring problems assessing the online meeting platform. The numbers speak for themselves. On any single week, we now have over 200 seniors attending a myriad of social, learning, and physical activities, all online. And that number keeps growing!

What surprised us too is the shift in attitudes. Firstly, seniors themselves were pleasantly surprised by their own ability to navigate their devices to access online programming. That instilled a lot of confidence in them and they regained their self-esteem. Second, as time went on, they began to really appreciate online delivery. This is because for many of them, this is the first time they are able to independently take part in activities without having to wait for a ride, take transit, or arrange for someone to drive them. They also love the convenience of not having to contend with the weather. They loved the convenience of being able to participate in so many activities right from the comfort of their own home. In fact, a senior mentioned to us, “I attend a lot more activities now because it is so convenient. I also made new friends!”

The benefits of social participation for seniors and older adults are well documented in the research literature, all of which point to the conclusion that there is a positive correlation between social participation and improved mental and physical health. For example, the following specific benefits are documented in the research paper, Social Participation and its Benefits, Government of Manitoba:

- Older adults who participated on a daily or weekly basis in social activity had a 40% reduced risk of developing dementia compared to those who were not socially engaged

- An intervention that combined structured social activity with light intensity exercise significantly improved older adults’ memory function and sleep

- For every 7 older adults who increase their social activity level, one person would remain disability-free within about a 5-year time frame.

- With increased social activity, the proportion of older adults who develop a mobility disability will decrease from 62% to 43% - a 19% drop.

- Social participation leads to a decreased likelihood of depression, a mental health affliction that impacts seniors.

In general, the provision of social participation opportunities for seniors creates a much-needed social environment, fosters a network of social support, thereby protecting seniors against the negative mental & physical health impacts associated with social isolation for seniors. At MPC Foundation, we are fortunate to be able to work alongside a multitude of stakeholders to mitigate social isolation for seniors and older adults. With their support, we are able to offer a wide range of activities, and during this time of social distancing, critical technological support for all seniors to access programs online.

For more information or to register, please call/text (587) 480-7373 or email info@mpcfdn.ca