Over the past few years, you may have noticed that there has been a shift in who uses social media most often. Facebook, in particular, is not just for young people anymore. In fact, more senior users than ever before are logging onto the social media platform on a daily basis.
Overall, technology usage for seniors can be a very healthy thing. In what many people call the “Age of Information,” it can be easy to think that technology is isolating us from one another. However, there are many benefits to your senior loved ones using technology.
1. Staying Connected from Far Away
Oftentimes, it’s hard for people to stay connected to friends and loved ones that they don’t see very often. An older adult in your life may lament the fact that they don’t often get the chance to visit family, particularly children and grandchildren that live far away.
Fortunately, things like social media and email make it simpler than ever to stay connected. By logging onto Facebook, your parent or grandparent can be easily updated on their loved ones’ lives. They can browse photos, send messages, and read status updates. They can even try and reconnect with friends and colleagues from their past, simply by searching for a person’s name and location or alma mater. Even just a few decades ago, that wouldn’t have been much of a possibility.
2. Video Calls
If your senior loved one has access to a computer or smartphone, complete with a video camera and microphone, you can connect with them via many different video chat applications. Skype is a popular video calling app that you can easily access via their website, desktop app, or mobile app. If your senior loved one has an iPhone or Apple computer, they automatically have access to FaceTime. Google also offers free video conferencing services with their Hangouts app – simply register for a free Google account, and you are good to go!
Video calls add a layer to a conversation that you just can’t get with an old-fashioned phone call: being able to see your loved one’s face. Eye contact and facial recognition are very important to effective communication and engaging conversations. This is particularly useful when an important life event occurs. If your senior loved one can’t make it across the country to meet their newborn grandchild, for instance, they can video call with the parents to virtually “meet” the newest addition to the family.
3. Using Technology to Get Involved
Seniors may also appreciate technology for the new opportunities it presents to get involved with causes they care about. When elderly people retire, it can sometimes be tough to find things to do all day. But now, with technology, they can join groups of like-minded people on social media. They can also stay abreast of any important national or local news. If they want to find volunteer opportunities but don’t know where to look, they can perform a simple Google search for organizations in their local area.
4. Keep Track of Health
As a younger loved one to a senior, you may constantly find yourself worrying about their health. Now, thanks to technology, it’s easy to keep up to date with their day-to-day health and wellbeing. Apps like FitBit allow you to share health information via your smartphone. You can track things like heart rate and daily exercise activity. If you see that your senior loved one isn’t staying active enough, you can encourage them to partake in healthy behaviors.
Smart home technology and wearable devices can also literally track our loved ones with Alzheimer’s. Tracking technology such as sensors and tracking devices made by SmartThings and iTraq can be used to keep close tabs on them, in case they wander off and go missing. This helps them live independently longer without in-home care.
5. Improve Daily Life
At the end of the day, all of these aforementioned benefits mean a much improved quality of life for senior citizens, especially those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. With constant communication through video calls and social media and assistive technologies that facilitate memory, it increases their physical and social activity. When we take time to really connect with them, it can release hormones that boost their mood and relieve stress.
Seniors experiencing memory loss face the biggest challenges of dealing with their everyday tasks. But with today’s technology — although we still have a long way to go — these challenges can be overcome.
Staying connected with senior loved ones can seem difficult, especially from far away. However, with technology, the time between visits seems a bit shorter. By being able to track their health and connecting with family members and friends on a regular basis, technology and social media can truly enhance your senior loved one’s quality of life.