Seniors and Social Media: Helping the Homebound Stay Connected

It’s no secret that isolation can be dangerous for homebound older adults.[1.“Health Effects of Social Isolation,” December 20, 2012,] There is exhaustive evidence that it can be detrimental to them – physically, mentally, and emotionally. But what do you do when you can’t always be with your loved one? After all, you have your own job, immediate family, and responsibilities to take care of. The answer could be as close as a computer: it involves pairing seniors with social media!

Social Media Sites for Older Adults

Check out the following social media sites with your loved one, and see if any of them strikes a chord:
Facebook: One of the biggest social media platforms for all age groups, Facebook is specifically designed to help friends, family, and loved ones connect. In other words, it’s perfect for an older adult[2.“The New Facebook User: Senior Citizens,”] who’s trying to stay in touch with relatives, grandkids, and long-time pals. Your loved one can also meet new people by searching groups with similar interests.
Pinterest: Scrapbooking is a common pastime for older adults, and what better way to do it than take it online? Pinterest is like a digital scrapbook, where users can share pictures they post (or find online) that are meaningful to them. Others can comment and share the pictures as well, allowing conversations to start and friendships to blossom. Cooking, crafts, children/grandchildren, and fashion are all popular topics on Pinterest.
Twitter: The king of succinctness, Twitter allows you only 140 characters — including spaces and punctuation — to get your message across. The good news is, there are a lot of messages (and therefore followers and friendships) from which to choose! It’s easy to find people and groups with common interests based on hashtags and “tweet ups.” The latter are meetings on Twitter where people tweet each other for a set amount of time.
Google+: Some people are calling Google+ “the new Facebook.” This is another great network that allows users to discover things they have in common. Anyone can jump in the conversation and find like minds – or those with differing opinions to argue with! Your loved one can even link to their other social media profiles on Google+ for additional opportunities to connect.

Social Media Isn’t the Only Solution

As you can see, social media can be a great tool to help your loved one interact with those they know, as well as meet new people. But what do you do if they aren’t interested in communicating via a screen or keyboard? There are numerous computer classes that cater to this age group, but what if they’re still reluctant to engage? Or if certain aspects of computers (working the mouse, physically typing) prove difficult for them? After all, medical conditions like poor eyesight or arthritis can easily make everyday activities challenging, if not impossible.
If these are some of the concerns your loved one is facing, getting them help at home is a great option. Seeing a familiar, friendly face on a regular basis can do wonders to improve their mood and sense of security. In addition, a health aide can take care of daily tasks that give your loved one trouble, like cooking, light housekeeping, transportation, and more. And who knows? If the aide is computer savvy, they may even be able to assist your loved one with social media, expanding their circle of friends even more!

Seniors and Social Media: It’s Only Just Begun

The interplay between seniors and social media has only just begun. Social networks are constantly evolving, and no doubt new platforms and techniques will continue to grow as the years go by. We’re sure to see many exciting changes in the future — perhaps those that will even cater to older populations. But no matter what happens, anything you can do to decrease your loved one’s isolation goes a long way in protecting their happiness and well-being.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.

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