Can you be isolated in the digital age?


My Dad


My father retired from the University of Hawaii, moved to a place he had never visited and began 12 years of social isolation until his death in 1984.



My Dad retired at 68 when I was beginning high school. We moved from Hawaii to a small town in Northern Colorado where we didn’t know anyone. Most days my Dad had a routine which included driving me to school, returning home,  sitting on the couch, chain smoking, drinking beer and watching TV with his dogs. He turned into bed by 8 and was up at 5:30.

It was a very sad life for a man that had been a wonderful teacher, a writer and someone who had a strong group of articulate intellectual friends. He spent his retirement severely depressed and in almost complete social isolation. When he died, I am pretty sure he said “Thank God that’s over!”

My father’s horrible retirement years has been a beacon for me. I thought long and hard since I entered the workforce about how my life in retirement would be completely different from my Dad’s.

A key component to happy retirement is to be engaged socially, intellectually and physically.  Social isolation is an issue for many older adults who have left the workforce and it’s impact is significant. A brief google search produced a long list of articles and websites about this condition.



Social isolation has a larger impact than increased depression. It also contributes to a wide range of physical conditions including increased blood pressure, increased risk of alzheimer’s, weakened immune system and increased risk for cancer.

A strategy to avoid social isolation in retirement is to settle in a community with other retirees. The first age restricted community was Youngtown Arizona in 1954.  The concept of “active retirement”  community exemplified by the Sun City expanded the concept of age restriction. poolside This model added shared facilities (rec centers, meeting rooms, golf clubs, etc…) and community run clubs, sports, classes and social events.

Work Or Retire Signpost Shows Choice Of Working Or Retirement

Work Or Retire Signpost Shows Choice Of Working Or Retirement

Being in a retirement town I run into many happy people from the icon of active retirement: Sun City where social isolation is fought hard. People who buy property in Sun City consciously make a choice to live in a place without a dull moment.


Residents frame their decision to live in an active community as a way to immediately have friends and activity in a new community. It’s a prefab transition from a busy work life to a busy retirement, but it’s not for me.

After working the super active school environment, I am happier right now enjoying some “me” time. Social media has played a major role in helping the balance between the isolation of my studio and the need to connect with like minded people.

As I have learned to actively engage in a variety of social media platforms I am getting connected not only with people like me, but also with people who help me stretch out socially and intellectually.

I wonder if my Dad had been living in the social media age if he wouldn't have created a life beyond work

Being online has expanded my my interests. I did not consider myself a writer. My training and expertise is in the visual arts. So when I began to take this blog seriously I started searching for  bloggers who were successful. Some of these bloggers had lists of blogs they followed and I read and followed some of those blogs. Along the way I have ended up reading wide array of topics from blog about fashion to the history of Canadian participation in WWII.

I have also learned through blogs that other forms of social media are key to driving readers to your blog. Paula Reed Nancarrow had a series of posts about using Twitter to increase the number of followers to your blog. Since that time my readership has grown more than tripled.

More importantly once I got Twitter and took the time to understand that platform I have made some connections that have added immeasurably to my artistic practice by sending out images of work in progress and gagging my success by monitoring the social traffic.

cal-201408-retro_tech_024 The biggest “ah ha” for me was the discovery that being engaged in social media or being online is not analogous to watching TV.  A TV is a device like a book. You are taking in information.

Social media is a conversation at a large event where you may know some people, but not everyone. You have the opportunity to listen and to respond. It is not an isolating activity and if you are an intellectual person you will find a world of intellectual thought that will expand your understanding of the world.

Sad Fact: Two fifths all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company (Age UK, 2014)

So take sometime if you don’t know how to use social media to learn how to use it. It’s liberating!

Until next time…