Today, one’s existence is linked to their presence on social media. Here is a tool, a channel of information so powerful that it has transformed the way we interact with our peers, our family and friends. It is often thought that social media is for the youth, the working population, the ever expanding businesses’ and the government agencies to reach out to the general populace, but the role of social media in the lives of senior citizens is sadly overlooked.
The role of social media in the life of senior citizens
Senior citizens often fall victim to isolation, depression and loneliness. With children leaving homes for greener pastures and their productive years behind them, these elderly people are often left with ample time on their hands and are often bereft of familial support. Also their decreased mobility and dependence on people around takes a toll on their emotional and physical wellbeing. This is where the importance of social media surfaces; this is the balm that will soothe the lonely hearts and appeal to the intellect of an aging population.
Social media helps these aging adults connect with their loved ones, long lost friends and also participate in several social causes which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. An upcoming study by Dr. Shelia Cotten, a sociologist and Associate Professor in the University of Alabama, Birmingham, states that there has been a 30 percent decrease in depression and feeling of loneliness in senior citizens who use internet and social media.
“We’re not as close to the grave as we thought.”
The introduction of social media into the lives of these elderly lifts their spirts and boosts their morale as they realize that their life is not to be wasted away and there are still avenues that they can explore. Social media is an emotional outlet for these people; it provides them with an opportunity to keep in touch with their progeny and friends. Not only that, they can interact with other likeminded people and share their views and fears. They will never feel lonely again, because there is someone online all the time that they can interact with and keep loneliness at bay.
Most popular social media among seniors
Facebook and Twitter are by far the most popular social media used by the elderly. It is here that they can stay in touch with their families and friends by posting photos and videos and status messages. Only a screen separates them from their children and grandchildren; and from everything else they are looking for. 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.
Social Media and mental health
The use of social media keeps the seniors mentally fit and up to date. They often use it to keep up to date with various government schemes and research on the various financial assistances offered to senior citizens. Social Media is the gateway to the outside world for many who due to their age and the associated disabilities are home bound. 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.
Research shows that the Internet has become an important way to exercise the minds of seniors. A new study conducted in England and Italy found that when the elderly are trained in the use of social media as well as Skype and email, they performed better cognitively and experienced improved health. Thus we see that socializing, a basic human need shows significant improvement in one’s health and mental makeup.
Social Media to upgrade yourself
Not only does social media keep you mentally active and emotionally upbeat, it also provides you with the opportunity to learn a new skill, start a new venture (remember business is not age bound). Several products and services offer online discounts and also offer a platform to showcase your talents and experience. This can be a huge shot in the arm for senior citizens.
Need for senior citizen friendly interfaces
Till recently social media was considered to be a thing for the youth; hence all interfaces were built to match their needs and speed. The elderly find these interfaces challenging and unsurmountable at times. Hence it is paramount that we focus on introducing easier interfaces more in tune with the physical abilities of the old.
Do’s and don’ts on social media
Be mindful of your comments: Those new to the social media should know that anything that they post or comment doesn’t remain private. Hence they should pay heed to what gets posted on any social networking site.
Don’t post too many photos of your loved ones – Yes, it is natural to show off their adorable grandchildren to the rest of the world, but they need to be educated to the several predators lurking online. Secondly, nobody has the time to go through several photos however cute the subject is!
Go easy on hashtags: They help identify messages on specific topics and help in categorizing them. Hence it is necessary to not over do with hash tag.
Conquering solitariness has never been easier than in the present time, thanks to social media. The use of internet as a support system and an educational tool can’t be reiterated enough. 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 mitigated the potential of our seniors feeling isolated and alone. Social media is truly a savior for the vast majority of senior citizens.