By Holly Glen Gearhart, Contributing Writer
We will be struggling out of winter soon, but for the immediate future the cold, windy days of the Pacific Northwest are upon us. This is a real problem for the aged and disabled who find themselves further isolated due to the season.
Winter has its challenges in this region, and it is easy to become isolated during months of windy and cold days. For most, the demands of work keep them from spending too much time alone. But for many who have no job or place they have to go, it is easy to quickly become shut-ins, never stepping foot outside of their residences.
Social isolation, physical or mental, is a major cause of decline of mental health, as found by the National Health Institutes.
“Social isolation is a potent but little understood risk factor for morbidity and mortality, and its negative consequences are most profound among the elderly, the poor, and minorities,” the organization reported. People can become at risk for hypertension, slower wound healing and poorer sleep efficiency.
Unless effectively addressed, these will linger as one of the most dangerous but poorly understood epidemics in society today—social isolation.
A lack of social interaction can be devastating. But as social networking grows across all socio-economic groups, online communities can and will become a vital source of outreach as more than 70 million baby boomers leave the workforce. Online socializing can be the way to begin to climb out of isolation and rejoin society.
However, there is one significant barrier that prevents low-income people from connecting with others online; the cost of a computer and internet connection is often prohibitive. However, there is help available.
To go online, you need a computer, either laptop or desktop; internet access and internet and computer instruction.
The good news is these three ingredients are often available at little to no cost for low-income people. The East County Senior Center, the Monroe Library and other places in Monroe (such as coffee shops) offer free internet access. To use those, you will need a transportable laptop computer.
The library has computers and basic instructions for how to use them on site.
Solid Ground, a non-profit, anti-poverty and social service community organization, serves clients throughout King County and statewide. One of their statewide programs is their partnership with Everyone On, a non-profit program to make internet access available to low-income people. To learn more, visit http://www.everyoneon.org/connected/
You have your choice of internet access packages, ranging from ten dollars a month to completely free. There are charges to buy the modems (devices used to access the internet), but the prices are far lower than retail.
Here are some sources to get a free recycled computer to get access to the internet:
Everyone On has resources for computer training, as does the East County Senior Center and the Monroe Library.