A Hot Trend: The Internet, Social Media & The Elderly by: Anita Kamiel R.N., M.P.S.

Senior couple using tablet sitting on bed

Many might think that social media is the exclusive domain of the younger generation. However, many of our older adults have enthusiastically adopted it to keep up with the times as well as their old acquaintances and younger family members. Grandparents are becoming proficient in alien things like Skype and Facebook and liking it. It has become a healthy emotional outlet and word of its benefits has spread like wildfire among the elderly.

Statistics on Elderly Internet Use

According to the Pew Research Center, Internet use among those 65 and older grew 150 percent between 2009 and 2011, the largest growth in a demographic group. Furthermore, their 2012 study showed that of those that go online, 71 percent do so daily and 34 percent use social media. The elderly use these tools to bridge the geographic gap between them and their loved ones far away and as a way to re-connect with friends from a far off time. Studies show that the internet has become an important portal for reducing isolation, loneliness and other depressive symptoms.

How the Elderly Use the Internet

Seniors emphasize the informational and educational aspects of the Internet using it in an encyclopedic fashion to visit government sites or research financial issues. Many of the elderly have uncovered the beauty of the digital travelogue and the value of having a book review available through a simple click. This gateway to the outside world is critical once the elderly become homebound. While teens have moved on from Facebook, the older generation has found that it serves them quite well. Seniors have discovered that Skyping is a great way to bring relatives from faraway destinations right into their living rooms. Twitter has become popular for keying into specific news sections they want to follow.

While their younger counterparts use social media in a “selfie” sort of way, the elderly, who are very sensitive to privacy issues, use it to connect with like-minded individuals. They use it for health information and to connect with others experiencing the same challenges. They have recognized that others in their stations in life are also online and have used it to start discussion groups for life and health issues pertinent to them. From dementia to depression to diabetes — all can give and receive support in the comfort and convenience of their home. Doctors and other professionals have keyed into this demographic and set up social media pages to take advantage of this customer and patient outlet. Groups for the elderly experiencing specific ailments as well as groups directed at their caregivers are all set up for those elderly who are increasingly availing themselves of this supportive network.

Computer Classes for the Elderly

Computer classes at senior centers are growing in popularity. Classes on computer basics as well as instruction in using email and other social media platforms such as Facebook have become more common. In fact, the Jewish Council for the Aging in Washington, D.C. offers an entire Senior Tech program. DorotUSA.org has a whole program called University Without Walls specifically designed for seniors who are homebound where they get to participate in stimulating classes and lectures through their computer or tablet. Local AARP chapters also offer computer basics classes and sometimes partner with vendors for discounts on the hardware.

A Tool With Great Benefits

Research shows the Internet has become an important way to exercise the minds of seniors. A new study out of England and Italy finds that when the elderly are trained in the use of social media as well as Skype and email, they perform better cognitively and experience improved health. During a two year period, 120 seniors in the UK and Italy aged 65 and above were given specially designed computer training and were compared against a control group that did not receive any. Among those that used these tools, the mental and physical capacity improved as opposed to a steady decline experienced in the control group. One woman reported feeling “invigorated” rather than “slipping into a slower pace” and caring more about her appearance and losing weight. It seems that satisfying our basic social needs can have synergistic effects for our overall health.

Overcoming loneliness is that much easier through the Internet and social media. As more and more of the population ages and sticks closer to home, the Internet as a support and educational tool becomes ever more important. Technology has greatly ameliorated the potential of our seniors feeling isolated and alone. Let’s help them take advantage!

 


Anita Kamiel, RN, MPS, is the founder and owner of David York Home Healthcare Agency, licensed by the State of New York. She holds a master’s degree in gerontological administration and is fully acquainted with all factors related to eldercare services and the latest guidelines for seniors. Thirty years ago, she realized the need for affordable, quality home health aide services provided and supervised by caring individuals. You can contact her at 718-376-7755 or at www.davidyorkagency.com. David York Agency is also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Tackling Technology with the Elderly

senior and social media

For many seniors, learning how to use a new form of technology can be intimidating. A lot has changed since they were in their prime learning years. As such, many elderly individuals resist using technology at all. If your loved one is apprehensive about incorporating technology into their life, try to be understanding of their fears. Be supportive and encouraging. Ease them into it slowly, and most important, be patient.

If you yourself are having trouble explaining this technology to your elderly loved one, you may want to call in the grandchildren. Chances are, the grandkids will be far better teachers because they’re using social media and technology all the time.

Another idea is to enroll for one of the free computer training courses offered through senior centers, churches or the library. It is a good way to meet like-minded people who are curious and open to learning. If you are not into technology or don’t know someone who is, consider enlisting the help of a tech-savvy neighbor or a professional instructor.

If none of these are an option, you can go to YouTube or Google and search for videos on any subject you want to learn. In other words, you could search for “how to join Facebook” or “how to post on Twitter” or “how to use Pinterest.” Every search will bring up a lot of videos and you can watch several to learn what you need to know. The nice thing about watching videos is that you can watch them over and over and even pause them when you need to slow things down.

Of course, social media and technology aren’t replacements for real human interaction and care. If you need help caring for and accompanying an elderly loved one, it may be time to seek the help of an in-home health care agency. At David York Agency, we provide a variety of personal health care services that support both the mental and physical wellness of the elderly and infirmed.

For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate home caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you with the assistance you loved one needs as he or she ages. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.

 

Using Technology to Eliminate Loneliness in the Elderly

loneliness in the elderly

While winter is the season when people of all ages feel more lonely and cooped up due to the weather, for the elderly, loneliness is not just limited to winter. Loneliness can be a major problem all year round. With decreased mobility, less community engagement, and fewer visits from friends and loved ones, seniors can be left feeling forgotten and alone, which commonly leads to depression.

Fortunately, with today’s technology, there are more options for seniors to stay active, take part in the community, and maintain relationships with loved ones. Through social media and a variety of technological tools, the elderly can stay in touch with family and friends and feel more connected to the world as a whole.

Staying in Touch Through Social Media

Social media provides a way for seniors to connect with friends and family. It is also a way to meet new friends from around the world or to connect with long-lost acquaintances.

According to the latest Pew Research report on seniors and social media:

“Usage among those 65 and older has more than tripled since 2010, when 11% used social media. Today, 35% of all those 65 and older report using social media, compared with just 2% in 2005.”

Social Media Primer for the Elderly

But what exactly is social media? Well, social media is defined as online social communication. This communication takes different forms. Through Twitter, it takes the form of short messages (140 characters only) called tweets. Facebook allows the posting of pictures and longer-form status updates. Instagram and Pinterest are places where people post images and YouTube is a place where people publish videos.

With social media skills, seniors can not only communicate with and reach their friends and family, but they can also stay connected to the world.

Facebook is the most used social media platform. It allows connection with friends, families, and groups. Users can follow their favorite celebrities, news outlets, and loved ones to stay connected and up-to-date on what’s happening in everyone’s lives.

Twitter is for those who like to say things in a few words. For those who don’t like to type, or just want to say a short comment, Twitter is for you. If you want to connect with other Twitter users on a particular topic, use the “#” when searching for groups, such as #seniorcitizens or #recipes, to find others who are discussing that topic.

LinkedIn is a place to showcase online resumes and professional information. It is a place primarily for those who are still working. If someone is only semi-retired and still wants to connect with the business world, LinkedIn is a good social media network to join.

Video Chatting

Another technological tool that can make the elderly feel less lonely is online video chatting. Using any device that has a web-enabled camera, seniors can talk face to face with their friends and family. Applications like Facetime, Skype, and Google Hangouts are all easy to use and can be set up on smartphones, tablets, or computers.

Video chatting offers a more personal and intimate way to chat with loved ones and is the next best thing to actually seeing them in person. This can be an especially great tool if children and grandchildren are spread out across the country or globe. Even if loved ones aren’t able to come visit in person, they can connect through video chat with the click of a mouse.

Of course, social media and technology aren’t replacements for real human interaction and care. If you need help caring for and accompanying an elderly loved one, it may be time to seek the help of an in-home health care agency. At David York Agency, we provide a variety of personal health care services that support both the mental and physical wellness of the elderly and infirmed.

For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate home caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you with the assistance you loved one needs as he or she ages. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.