Seniors Have Options to Find Companions Online

Julia Little  |  June 26, 2014

Seniors will soon have new ways to connect with loved ones and make new friends online, thanks to two websites. One service, Tapestry, allows older adults who have trouble with technology to stay in touch with family members who use multiple social networks. The other, soon to launch, is called Stitch and is described as a way for seniors to find companionship.

Keeping in touch
Tapestry works by connecting all of a user's social networks and email accounts to their Tapestry profile, according to its website. Everything they receive online can then be found in one place. That way, seniors don't have to remember multiple passwords and switch between different websites to keep up with their loved ones.

According to The Atlantic, Andrew Dowling, Tapestry's founder, realized when visiting senior communities that his service was not providing everything older adults needed.

"In one community in northern California, we were asked 'Do you know who's single here?' about half a dozen times," Dowling told the news source. "This got us thinking that technology to help people connect to their existing families is really only part of the battle. Just as important is helping them find companionship as they age."

Building new bonds
To make finding companions easier, Dowling created a new service called Stitch. The website has been described in the media as a dating site for seniors. Though Dowling said that the description is inaccurate, he also enjoys the attention it has garnered. Stitch is actually meant as a simple way to connect people with common interests who may not have wide social groups.

"One of the inevitabilities of getting older is that your social circle eventually starts to shrink," Dowling said.

Feeling disconnected
People are more mobile than ever and are increasingly socially active online. That means that seniors are more likely to see their families and friends spread across a wider geographic area than they can easily travel. While families can still stay in touch using the Internet, people over 65 are the least likely to be online. According to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of seniors use the Internet, as opposed to 86 percent of the total adult population.

Whether seniors have access to online connections or not, a lack of personal contact can cause major problems. A study from Cornell University found that social isolation can cause declines in health on par with cigarette smoking and obesity. Another study of British seniors found that isolation increased the chances of dying over a seven-year period by 26 percent. Even if participants reported not feeling lonely, going too long without strong personal connections was associated with serious health consequences.

Seniors may not have as many options for reducing their loneliness as younger people. Being less likely to have Internet access and more likely to have trouble with mobility means it's harder for older adults to forge social connections. Dowling said that some seniors tried online dating sites just to find friends, because it seemed like the only way to meet people. His new service may provide a way for them to get the companionship they want without the complications of online dating.

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