Resources for Family Caregivers of Older Adults
Seniors & the Web: Growing Numbers Online & Many Reasons for More

Seniors & the Web: Growing Numbers Online & Many Reasons for More

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More seniors getting onto the web and surfing the net than ever before. There are so many ways for them to be connected with others they know or just haven’t met yet.

Our seniors are finding out using the web isn’t as hard as they once believed it to be —  and it can be fun too!

We wanted to share with you some benefits that social media and other electronic platforms can have for our senior loved ones in the hopes that you will continue to encourage them to become active with technology.

You can help get them started then interact with them too so they can be part of the connected life and not miss a thing!

Facebook & Older Adults

Over time Facebook has lost its luster for the younger generation in favor of other social media platforms but people over 55 are growing in their use of Facebook, up 35% in the past year according to a Pew Research study.

Seniors are finding many benefits to Facebook that they may not have realized in the past. With more and more seniors adopting technology in general and smartphones with apps for anything, they may be feeling more comfortable with social media.

Yes, seniors have been migrating over to Facebook and learning how to use it to their advantage.

What are they doing on Facebook?

Connecting with Others

It may have been family members and friends in the beginning but has quickly spread to people with similar interests, ideas, support groups and the love of a funny joke.

Perhaps they are talking to people who love the old shows like Mayberry RFD or I Love Lucy and are talking about that. Maybe they are keeping in touch with family members across the globe as our family does.

They can chat directly, use messages for more private information and even use it to email back and forth. As we know, it is a great way to see photos of anyone and even photos of us when we were young when we ‘throw back’. Those old memories are always good for a chuckle!

They are also trying to learn how to snap a photo on their phone and get it up to Facebook for their friends and family to see.

Making Video Calls

Did you know that you can partner up with Skype through Facebook and make video calls? This is especially great for people who live a long distance away and haven’t been able to meet in person for some time.

Calling long distance from a landline is pricey for many seniors and they don’t want to use their cell phone minutes either.

Facebook photos and videos are a great way to watch the grandkids (or great grandkids) grow too!

Supporting Causes

Many older adults also use Facebook to support one or more causes in which they believe strongly, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, which both have a strong Facebook presence. They can learn more, talk with others who share their beliefs, and participate in the community no matter what the cause.

My local history organization has a strong Facebook following in the community and frequently asks for items on their wish list that we can all support for their various projects and classes.

Things such as toilet paper rolls or old shoeboxes are things seniors can donate and feel a part of the greater community. It doesn’t have to be monetary support to allow our seniors to contribute to their favorite cause. They may also find volunteer opportunities to keep their minds and bodies engaged in the community and not just from behind the computer screen.

Staying Current

Keeping up with the latest news whether globally or locally is a good use of Facebook for seniors. They can read news up to the minute.

If they are interested they can also keep in step with the latest entertainment news, trends, and fads.

Recipes & Coupons

Getting recipes and coupons for their favorite products can easily be done using Facebook. Most large food manufacturers have strong Facebook pages that are active with daily food tips, recipes and product coupons.

Our seniors may not be cooking as much but just reading about food and getting a freebie every now and then can be fun. Don’t forget a chance to win a prize! Often times there are sweepstakes to enter and prizes to be won just for participating.

Educating Themselves

Learn something new on Facebook. Many seniors love to read and consider themselves lifelong learners as we all should.

There are many opportunities to learn a new skill, take a class, participate in a webinar or town hall meeting, take a survey, learn a language, trace their roots or many other ways to stimulate their brains on Facebook.

Medical Connections

Seniors are beginning to use smartphone apps to manage their chronic diseases. Caregivers, too, are tracking vital signs and sending the data directly to doctors. This is a great way for older adults to get medical oversight without the trip to the office. When seniors are more remote from the medical team, connecting through the web can keep them out of the hospital.

Another way our seniors can use the web to connect with their medical team is via email. A recent study from Catalyst Healthcare Research reports that 93% of those surveyed will select a doctor who will communicate with them via email. Of those, 25% said they would pay $25 for the ability to talk with the doctor via email if they could.

Many of us, especially caregivers who have limited time to chase healthcare professionals down in an endless array of phone messages, would love the opportunity to communicate in one place at one time and get a response. Being able to make appointments online would be another great benefit for seniors and caregivers too.

There is still some controversy about whether doctors should communicate via email, since they can’t physically evaluate the person, but for instances where a quick question could make the difference in the care and treatment of our seniors, it could be a valuable tool.

For instance, the senior did not remember how often to take the over the counter pill recommended and there are not directions to follow from the office visits so emails the doctor this question. He gets a response within 24 hours with directions for taking the over the counter medication correctly and avoids problems. Email combined with Skype or remote vital sign monitoring can make a world of difference to older adults who have transportation limitations whether physically or because of the distance.

Online Security an Issue

Another stumbling block with email communication is security. As with any platform or device that utilizes the web, security is an issue. We have to take all the necessary precautions on our end as well as the healthcare provider on their end. If we all understand our responsibility for privacy and share only the essential details, this shouldn’t stop us from gaining the benefits from technology.

There are also text messages and alerts that can be sent to our senior’s smartphone that will remind them when to take a medication or test their blood sugar. This automatic reminder will help keep them on track and healthy. Hopefully this will help them avoid administering important medications incorrectly and keep them out of the hospital too!

These are just a few examples of how the web can positively affect the lives of our seniors (and their caregivers). How do you interact using technology to benefit your senior loved one?

We'd love to hear your thoughts!





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