Advice on Aging
Toni Lynn Davis, MHA, CNHA, FACHCA
CEO/President Green Hill Inc.
Senior Citizens Using Social Media is on the Upswing.Senior citizens are getting in the swing of using social networking to connect with family, stay social and active, and even do their grocery shopping. The rate of senior citizens using social media has risen to nearly 45% and has been the fastest growing group of Facebook users since 2012, up from 35% in 2010 to 45% since 2012. The Pew Internet and American Life Project states that nearly 87% of senior citizens use online search engines, and use the Internet to check their emails.
MediaBistro.com states that the 74 and older age group is the fastest growing social networking user group and notes that senior citizens have 47x’s the net worth of households headed by those 35 and older. 40% of older Internet users do so to connect with family and old friends, 30% to share photos, 20% for social gaming and 10% for contest and games.
What we see is that the advent of social networking has the ability to help keep seniors from becoming socially isolated as the ability to use the Internet can keep them in contact with friends and family. The ability for seniors to use computers, tablets and phones to access online resources has grown with the reduction in price for the hardware, and a greater understanding and acceptance of the permanence of this hardware as an integral part of communicating in today’s society. Seniors are educating themselves online with access to publications from across the globe, and classes and courses that can be taken online from Universities around the world. The ability to watch streaming video and listen to music gives seniors access to art and culture without having to leave the comfort of their home, a great resource for the frail or infirmed. The ability to shop online and receive groceries without having to go to the market, push a cart, reach for or carry heavy items increasing a senior’s ability to care for themselves and their daily needs. As retail shopping online reduces the reliance on others for transportation, or the challenge maintaining a vehicle and driving oneself. The use of communication programs such as Skype enable seniors to connect with family and friends visually, in real time interaction.
Use of computers, tablets and mobile phones provide manual and intellectual activity that sustains dexterity and cognitive function, and improves emotional health and social interaction. Use of social media enables seniors to have access to information on issues like health and finances that concern them, or are of interest to them, especially through websites that cater to their needs like AARP, for technology, SeniorNet.org, and other online communities where ideas can be shared. New apps are created every day to help monitor one’s health, track medication use and provide consumer alerts.
Seniors relocate to nursing homes for health issues, care issues and to be a part of a community where they can socialize with other seniors. The use of social media, training opportunities and the availability of hardware is on the rise at nursing homes across the country. We encourage our residents at Green Hill to explore the world of social networking and to use it to connect with their families. We conduct training sessions to help them feel comfortable using the medium and empowered to explore its offerings. It is important to teach seniors about Internet safety, digital fraud, security protections, shopping online and proprietary information so they may navigate the digital world safely.
Though senior citizens are more likely to feel less confident when using the new technology than other age groups, with guidance, attention to audio levels and large print formats, and a little patience, the opportunities and connections that seniors will make bring a sense of freedom and control over their own lives, reduces rates of depression, increasing cognitive function, creates a social and familial connection in an ever growing digital world and provides access to all of the news, art and culture the world has to offer.