FINGER ON THE PULSE: Jenny Whitsed has faced health issues that prevented her from connecting in person, but social media has 'saved' her life by helping her stay connected.
FINGER ON THE PULSE: Jenny Whitsed has faced health issues that prevented her from connecting in person, but social media has 'saved' her life by helping her stay connected. Jenny Whitsed

'FACEBOOK SAVED MY LIFE': 64yo's unlikely source of joy

"I like to laugh a lot and look at funny things on Facebook and share positive things a lot."

At 64 years of age Jenny Whitsed is certainly no digital native, but the CWA Border Division marketing coordinator said social media saved her from isolation.

"I love Facebook," Ms Whitsed said.

"I haven't been real well the last few years. I've had some real health issues and haven't been able to go out as much as I used to and Facebook has been a real lifesaver for me."

Suffering from a balance disorder than doctors have struggled to diagnose, Emuvale resident Ms Whitsed struggled to get out of the house at times.

But Facebook and social media allowed Ms Whitsed to maintain a positive outlook on life, even when she was at her physical worst.

"I have friends all over the world and I play the games and it makes me feel as if I am in contact with what is going on," she said.

"I check up on all the pages and follow the news."

Ms Whitsed said Facebook Messenger allowed her to keep in touch with one of her closest friends, Meg Trimble, who gave a presentation on women's mental health at the National Rural Women's Coalition in Canberra on Tuesday.

"We speak just about every day," Ms Whitsed said.

"She is a tremendous friend."

 

DIGITAL DIMENSIONS: Facebook and social media are tools that elderly people can use to overcome isolation associated with mobility issues in later life.
DIGITAL DIMENSIONS: Facebook and social media are tools that elderly people can use to overcome isolation associated with mobility issues in later life. Eva-Katalin

While rural women of all ages struggle with mental health problems, Ms Whitsed said elderly women might be especially at risk of isolation.

"We have a lot of (CWA) members in their 70s and 80s who can't get around and if their families are a long way away they must feel very isolated," Ms Whitsed said.

Digital media was a tool elderly people could utilise to overcome loneliness, according to Ms Whitsed.

"Even though I can't get around as much as I used to, I don't feel too lonely because I can always ring someone up or send them a message," she said.

Building a network of women

Ms Whitsed said finding a group of supportive women was another barrier to isolation.

"Whether you can meet with them in person or chat on messenger on Facebook it really cuts down the isolation and the feeling of being alone," she said.

Even women who were married relied on other women for special support, according to Ms Whitsed.

"A lot of us don't necessarily get support from our husbands because men are so different," she said.

"We talk to other women more than what we would probably talk to our husbands about some things."

Ms Whitsed has made troupes of friends all around the state through her involvement with the CWA.

"Joining a group like the CWA is a wonderful thing for women especially in the isolated areas," she said.

 

IN ON THE FUN: Older generations can benefit from social media just as much as digital natives.
IN ON THE FUN: Older generations can benefit from social media just as much as digital natives. Geber86

Bouncing back during difficult times

Ms Whitsed also swears by the CWA's Bouncing Back program, which her friend Ms Trimble developed after seeing the devastation left by cyclone Yasi in 2011.

"When the flood is happening the whole community pull together but once it is over everyone sort of flops," Ms Whitsed said.

The program aims to help rural women and communities make it through difficult times.

But the benefits extend far beyond natural disasters, and the program has become a nationally recognised strategy for rural women.

Ms Trimble was invited her to share her advice at the National Rural Women's Coalition's conference on mental health on Tuesday.

Some take-away tips include:

If you wake up it's a great day, so start with a light heart and a smile.

Collect positive messages and photographs and read and look at them often. Laugh, sing and whistle loudly every day.

Talk to someone - especially if you have financial difficulties. Make that call. Don't let things build up until they overwhelm you. Tackle one thing at a time.

A mistake is just a learning experience. For a different result, do it differently.

Never give up. You can't usually control what happens in your life, but you can control how it affects you. Look for the positives in everything.


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