Loneliness and isolation pose serious health risks that affect a significant number of older adults. A recent report demonstrates that more than one-third of adults 45 and older feel lonely and almost one-quarter of adults 65 and older are considered socially isolated. 

What’s the difference between loneliness and social isolation? 

It’s possible to feel lonely (or alone) even when you live a fairly social life. Social isolation, on the other hand, is a lack of social connection. With both, the person affected might be missing the type or level of social support they need. Both are also considered serious health risks by the CDC because they can increase the risk of premature death, dementia, heart disease, and mental health conditions.

Older adults are much more likely to feel lonely because they are more likely to live alone, experience the loss of loved ones, and suffer from chronic illnesses. Online communities have been around for some time and spiked in popularity alongside the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we face an epidemic of loneliness within older populations, online communities continue to be relevant.

What are the benefits of an online social group for seniors?

Humans are social beings with social needs. As we age, we experience new, often difficult challenges. Some of these challenges leave us feeling alone. Even if we have friends and family to lean on, they may not be able to support us in the ways we need. That’s why a community filled with peers you can turn to is important!

If you’re experiencing one of the following, then a community forum or social network may be right for you:

  • You have a health condition that limits your face-to-face interaction with others

  • You have friends and family who are incredibly supportive but can’t be there for you all the time or provide you with answers to age-related questions

  • You enjoy being a community pillar—sparking conversations and providing support for others in need of a social connection or answers to their questions

  • You have special interests and would like to connect with others interested in the same things

The benefits of an online community or discussion group for older populations are endless. Online communities can:

  • Reduce the feeling of loneliness

  • Provide social interaction for those unable to meet people in person

  • Help get age-related questions answered

  • Make it easier to find people with similar interests to share and appreciate each others’ experiences (e.g., birding or traveling)

Online communities aren’t perfect. They don’t inherently offer in-person connection (although they can help you make connections that could lead to in-person contact), but they do offer a relatively accessible space for social interaction that can help diminish social isolation or feelings of loneliness. They also provide a place to crowdsource answers to questions—because our friends and family may not always know the answer to our pressing questions.

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