Hello, baby boomer men? Where art thou? Can you hear our calls?
If you’re a regular reader of Starts at 60, you may have noticed that there are a lot more women than men on our website. According to the 2011 Census, there were 3 million people aged 65 years and older residing in Australia, 1.4 million men, and 1.6 million women. So there are definitely baby boomer men out there – but they’re not online.
It makes me wonder – why are so many more women using the internet and social media than men? Is it stubbornness? Or is it a sense of superiority? Or perhaps men secretly fear the online world?
What I really think is worrying is that there is a such a big world out there on the internet – you can connect with anyone who shares your interests, and most importantly, you don’t feel alone. We need to remember that men in their 60s and beyond are some of the most susceptible to depression and are at high risk of suicide. I have heard stories of male community members who feel they have no reason to live, and I have even have a close friend whose father committed suicide at age 70, just last year. Clearly, it is a very real problem.
Men over the age of 85 are more likely to die by suicide than Australians of any other age group, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. And while most of our readers aren’t in their 80s, this is the reality of men’s later years if there isn’t an intervention – and the internet could be the answer.
The director of old age psychiatry at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, David Burke, told the ABC, “There’s a number of factors that lead to depression in old age. The biggest one is probably loss … through bereavement. People often lose their spouse and lose their friends. It has to do with loss of roles sometimes, with people retiring and not finding a new level of functioning in the community. It has to do with issues like social isolation and it’s also often related in old age to physical illness”.
Dr Burke said, “A significant number [of baby boomer men] do become depressed – we think somewhere between 10 and 20 per cent of people in old age suffer from depression at some time after the age of about 60 or 65”.
The idea that depressed men in their 60s and 70s are acting normally for someone of their age is incorrect – it is not normal to be depressed and suffering as you age. According to Brian Draper, Conjoint Professor of Psychiatry at UNSW, research consistently shows that for the majority of older people, late life is the life stage of greatest contentment and happiness.
And that is why it is important for baby boomer men to be online, and not just so they can play games and look at Facebook. It’s important because all of us here at Starts at 60 know just how uplifting it can be to know there’s someone on the other end – to know you’re not alone even if you live in a country town and have no living relatives.
So, we say to baby boomer women: get your husband, friends, brothers, uncles, cousins, sons and any other male online. Even if they can’t see the benefit straight away, they will thank you in the long run. Let’s connect over 60 men with the world so that they can enjoy life again.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Share your thoughts below: do you think there’s a lack of over 60 men online? Why or why not?