The coronavirus has changed the way we connect, especially seniors who are at high-risk for catching the virus. Luckily, technology has made it possible to stay connected with friends, family and other support networks even during times when isolation is a safety measure.

“Older adults depend on a multidimensional support network that enable a wide variety of ways to stay physically and mentally well,” says Travis Duncan, executive director at Mirabella, a retirement community in South Lake Union. “We had to get creative during the past 18 months, but that’s not a bad thing. Some of the changes we made, offering exercise classes and social events online, will stay in place because our residents enjoy the convenience of participating from home.”

There’s plenty of evidence that aging adults who focus on six dimensions of personal wellness (emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual and spiritual) are living longer, healthier lives regardless of the state of the world, in most cases. And technology is helping to expand these important support networks.

Here are four ways seniors can stay connected and maintain a support network that encompasses the six dimensions of personal wellness.

1. Take your social life online

The stereotype of older adults as unsavvy tech users is proving to be outdated. A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Institute found that 82% of 65- to 69-year-olds are internet users, and two-thirds say they have broadband internet connections in their home. Since the pandemic, more and more seniors are using — and loving — Zoom for chats over a cup of coffee, lunch dates and happy hours that used to happen in person.

You don’t have to give up planning nights out on the town — only now, everything from the Seattle Symphony to Seattle Town Hall events will come to you. Order take out from your favorite restaurant and settle in for a special night, without the bother of driving somewhere or dressing up!

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2. Stay involved with your community

Community engagement is a vital component of successful aging, helping seniors to feel they have some agency over their lives. 

“At Mirabella, we have 30 committees and task forces made up of residents, and nearly everyone belongs to at least one,” Duncan says. “They meet sometimes in -person, but some residents actually prefer meeting on Zoom, from the comfort of their couch. Especially those who may be suffering with a cold or having a bad day with arthritis.” 

Mirabella’s committees are made up of seven to 15 residents who meet to discuss different aspects of the six dimensions of personal wellness. Groups discuss everything from dining and nutrition, to exercise and fitness, to spirituality, to upkeep of the facilities. The most popular group is the programming committee, which brings in guest lecturers, musicians and other entertainment. During the pandemic events were strictly online and now they’re offered both in-person and via Zoom.


3. Connect with others who share your interests

Online discussion groups are a great way to expand your social circle and your mind. Seniors are connecting with other vibrant adults from all over the world through these virtual communities, each with its own flavor. Some online groups chat about books or music, some offer emotional support for widows or dealing with a chronically ill spouse, still others have a light and humorous flair. There’s something for everyone!

SeniorNet RoundTable Discussions has great tips and tricks for making the most of online communities. Members have access to safe chat rooms, as well as a wide variety of online events aimed at seniors. The ThirdAge online community for seniors offers classes and articles on health, current events, relationships, money and beauty, as well as chat rooms. Buzz50 offers a variety of groups you can check out and find one that lines up with your interests. Older is Wiser has articles, chat rooms, blogs and even contests.

4. Take an online class

During the pandemic, online learning became the norm for people of all ages. Research shows that continuous learning is key to aging well, contributing to a physical, cognitive, and socially healthy lifestyle.

Mirabella has a partnership with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Washington. Residents have access to a wide range of courses, lectures, study groups and special events. A full schedule of about 20 courses in fall, winter and spring provide residents with an active, engaged lifestyle that benefits all six dimensions of wellness. Some past course topics have included:

  • Secret Lives of Birds We Love
  • America in the Gilded Age
  • J.S. Bach: The Progress of a Musical Mind
  • Presidential Powers
  • Museum Masterpieces in the U.S.
  • Stars: Science and Stories

“Many people of all ages struggle with creating a well-rounded support network on their own, especially in recent months,” Duncan says. “Part of the beauty of living in a senior community is that we provide easy access to options in all six dimensions of wellness.”

Mirabella is a proudly not-for-profit Life Plan Community for Seattle’s older adults. Our South Lake Union location provides a thriving, urban environment for active seniors who seek an active, engaging lifestyle with the peace of mind of on-site health care services.