Sunday, July 01, 2007

Web 2.0 for Older Adults - Online support groups

A recent TechCrunch post described the new online social network called "Our Health Circle". This social network allows people to start public or private discussion and support groups for all types of health problems. It is also useful as a site for support for caregivers. For example there are discussion groups for people who care for their elderly parents. Online support groups may be especially helpful for older adults who have mobility issues and can not attend face to face support group meetings and discussions about their health problems. Learning about how others cope with a medical condition and being able to discuss their condition can give people hope and decrease their stress.

As librarians we can gather resources for older adults and their caregivers and inform our patrons about them. Linda Lucas Walling's "Library Services to the Sandwich Generation and Serial Caregivers" is a useful library publication for caregivers, but since this was published in 2001, there are many additional online resources and blogs for caregivers that are now available.

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EdinNJ said...

There are hundreds of other online and community self-help groups that serve older adults and caregivers, from for those going through hip replacement surgery, to the "Well Spouse Association" for anyone married to someone with a chronic illness or disability, from various SeniorNet groups to dozens of different chronic illness clubs bereavement anf grandparets-raising-grandchildren groups.

When there is no local or online support group available, reference librarians can actually help older adults to start their own local community support group by just suggesting that they join with others to start such a group, and by networking them with a local self-help group clearinghouse or national self-help group.

For information on both, there's the non-profit American Self-Help Group Clearinghouse at
which has a keyword-searchable database of nearly 1,200 support groups.

"My years as a medical practitioner, as well as my own first-hand experience, have taught me how important self-help groups are in assisting their members in dealing with problems, stress, hardship and pain... the benefits of mutual aid are experienced by millions of people who turn to others with a similar problem to attempt to deal with their isolation, powerlessness, alienation, and the awful feeling that nobody understands... Health and human service providers are learning that they can indeed provide a superior service when they help their patients and clients find appropriate peer support."
- former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, MD

Ref_Librarian said...

Thank you, edinnj, for your information and suggestions. I agree with you that libraries can help people to form support groups by providing meeting space and by advertising the meetings for support groups. Perhaps we could also provide online discussion or forum areas for local support groups. This is an example of how libraries can "build communities".