One of the things that older people often say to me is, as they age, they feel like they’re living in a closet, that it’s like becoming isolated and lonely. But that’s something we can do things about. And many older people have great experiences of making new friends, finding new ways to explore life, thinking about how to build new relationships. It can be one of the really good, positive, protective factors against anxiety and depression.
And just because we’re getting older, there’s no reason to think that we can’t find new friends, that we can’t find new things to do, new ways to be engaged in our community - even new ways of volunteering or contributing to our community in some way.
And social connections just aren’t about the quantity of relationships, and we all understand that. Quality is so important for our mental wellbeing. But it can also come from finding new friendships. And it’s interesting that, increasingly, older people, just like the rest of our community, find that technology gives us some really good, innovative ways to connect.
I don’t know about you, but a number of my friends have, as older people, used internet dating sites to find new friends, establish new relationships. But of course, things like dating sites bring with them some risks, and we need to be clever and smart about how we use that. And there’s often stories in the paper about people that have given away money, or people that have inadvertently provided bank accounts details.
And so, if we’re going to use something like internet dating sites, just think of our own safety and security. Be alert in our communications. I think one of the simple things is just be alert for some of those over-the-top messages of love, or things that seem unrealistic. But lots of people use internet dating sites now, to find exciting ways of relating and finding new friends. And older people aren’t any different to the rest of our community.
So, as we get older, there can be great opportunities for us to think about friendship and companionship, find new ways and new friends, and think about the different things that we can do to find a fulfilling life. And just because we’re getting older, doesn’t mean that we have to spend time on our own.
If you are considering online dating as an option for companionship and friendship, have a read of Looking for love in all the wrong places for tips to enhance your safety and security.
Commissioner for Senior Victorians
Gerard Mansour is a passionate advocate for the rights and needs of older Victorians, with more than 25 years’ experience working in the aged and wider community service sectors. He has contributed significantly to policy development and implementation for myriad services assisting senior Victorians. Go to Gerard's home page.