While the internet and technology may help to keep us connected, the reality is that nothing beats a strong social network and human contact.
The Australian Psychological Society’s Compass for life survey, compiled the responses for 1000 adults and 518 adolescents and found that actual human connections ranked top on the wellbeing scale. Those who were connected to their family, socialised with colleagues and remained active within their community has higher wellbeing scores than those who were excluded.
While connecting through social media gives people access to news and views, those with a higher usage reported feeling more lonely and subject to negative emotions.
The good news for those over 65 is that, in general they have higher levels of wellbeing and don’t feel as lonely as the remainder of the population.
What is interesting is that although money and wealth are often in the top three things that come to mind when asked what makes a good life, household income has no bearing on wellbeing.
Clinical Psychologist Professor Lyn Littlefield had this to say about the importance of older Australians attitude to remaining connected:
Why do you think that Australians over 65 have significantly higher levels of wellbeing and lower levels of loneliness?
Many Australians over 65 are at the point of reflecting on their lives and have very different expectations of their future than they did when young. They are often more accepting of their lives, less ambitious and don’t have as high expectations… i.e.they are more settled and comfortable with where they are at and so feel a greater sense of well- being.
They also are often retired and have more time to do what they want. They frequently spend more time with friends and family and on activities in the community, both of which are related to well- being. These connections and engagement are often stronger in older Australians. They also can be more selective about what they engage in and can choose activities that give them pleasure and sometimes open up learning in areas they are interested – and finally they are more likely to value ‘the moment’ and focus on enjoying the current time.
Is there something that can be learned from the seeming balance that older Australians have?
Much can be learned from older adults – it is largely about getting a better balance in life and valuing relationships and putting time and effort into them. It’s also about being realistic about own’s own life and possibilities for the future, whilst still valuing achievements and accomplishments and finding meaning in what one does and one’s life.
In Psychology Week, running from 6 to 12 November, all Australians are being urged to visit Compassforlife.org.au to measure and improve their wellbeing.