Mental & Emotional Health

Can Skype Make You Happier?

Loneliness and depression are not uncommon within the senior community. While the Centers for Disease Control reports that “depression is a true and treatable medical condition, not a normal part of aging,” the CDC also acknowledges that older adults do face a higher risk than other age groups of experiencing depression and anxiety. According to the CDC, about 80 percent of older adults are living with at least one chronic health problem, which could play a major role in the development of depression.

So, aside from medication, how can you combat the blues? Researchers in Texas have found Skype to be remarkably successful.

Skype Study

Skype, a free internet-based phone call system, can connect you to loved ones all around the world. Employing video conferencing technology, Skype uses video so you can hear and see the person you are talking to. Two researchers at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work set out to help local homebound seniors battling depression through various forms of psychotherapy as opposed to medication.  The project was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Participants between the ages of 50 and 80, were loaned laptop computers with Skype video call installed and 3G prepaid wireless cards for Internet connection. Namkee Choi, lead researcher on this study and a Professor with UTA’s School of Social Work, used a method called Problem-Solving Therapy to treat the patients, all of whom suffered from depression. Over the course of 36 weeks, participants were placed into different groups that used Skype videoconferencing therapy sessions, or in-person and telephone-only therapy sessions.

Choi and her team were surprised to find that the participants who were in the video conferencing group showed a significant reduction in their depression symptoms. About 90 percent of them said that it was a life-changing experience for them,

Stay Connected

Beyond therapy, there are many reasons for seniors to stay connected through Skype.

*Once you give up driving for health reasons, staying connected with old friends can be difficult. Skype can help you remain close. You can organize weekly current events discussions, monthly book club meetings, or indulge in your favorite game of cards.

*Do your grandchildren live in another state? You can read them bedtime stories via Skype, help them with their homework, or just stay up to date on what is going on in their lives, while also getting to see first-hand how fast they are growing.

*If you happen to feel particularly lonely during mealtimes, Skype can help ensure that you won’t have to eat all your meals alone anymore. Coordinate with a friend and schedule some of your meals in front of the computer.

*Want to hear about your oldest grandchild’s study abroad experience? All you have to do is log into Skype and he or she can tell you about all of the travels, complete with photographs and souvenirs.

*Or maybe your daughter is really into yoga. Ask her to lead you through a few stretches and you can catch up while getting in some exercise time.

And if you are not tech-savvy and are unsure about how to go about setting Skype up, you can probably find a program in your area that will help you learn more about the computer. Visiting Angels, a nation-wide eldercare service provider, has a new “Silver Surfers” program that send experts into seniors’ homes to teach them everything from text messaging and Skype to Facebook and the Internet.

The Bottom Line

With so much technology available to us these days, there’s no reason that you can’t take advantage of some of it. While that may seem scary at first, once you master the technology you’ll be amazed at all the new opportunities that come your way. It’s a sure-fire way to put a smile on your face.

Hilary Young is the Communications Manager for Medical Guardian.  She helps to keep baby boomers and their loved ones educated about their health and wellbeing.  She is also a regular contributor to the Medical Guardian Blog, the Huffington Post, and

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