Are you seeking information about social media for elderly people?
There’s a certain stereotype regarding seniors and the internet: Bumbling boomers sending chain letters and misusing emoji. Screenshots of moms misusing text to speech or thinking “LOL” means “lots of love” are comedic gold, but they’re not indicative of the real story.
As it happens, the age of the technologically illiterate senior is fading fast. The frequent appearance of smartphones and the cultural dominance of social media mean that the internet is more accessible than ever. Services like Instagram and WhatsApp are no longer the domain of the youth, and that’s a good thing.
Don’t misunderstand — there are still a lot of risks involved with seniors using social media — but there are significant benefits as well, especially for seniors at risk of developing memory issues like Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Social media can be an essential tool for preserving cognition and independence if you use it properly.
Let’s explore the advantages of social media for elderly people.
Benefits of Social Media for Elderly People
The Importance of Staying Connected
Multiple studies have shown the importance of social networks in delaying cognitive decline. In this context, we’re not talking about online social networks like Facebook, but rather the network of relationships a person maintains.
Our brains rely on regular, fulfilling stimulation to remain healthy. Puzzles and brain teasers help, but they just can’t compare to social interaction when it comes to maintaining a healthy brain.
Unfortunately, many seniors struggle to maintain their social networks. In fact, a 2020 study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found that one in four Americans over the age of 65 struggle with social isolation: a lack of social connections.
Unfortunately, this is a natural occurrence. For many seniors, friends die, family moves further away, and age makes it challenging to engage in the social activities we once enjoyed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that isolation can lead to serious health complications, including a 50 percent increased risk of dementia.
One of the most significant benefits of social media is the ability to remain connected across vast distances. Services like Facebook and Instagram allow seniors to stay in touch with children and grandchildren or to reconnect with old friends. However, this barely cracks the surface of the benefits of social media for elderly seniors.
The Power to Create
The smartphone is one of the most powerful tools for content creation ever conceived. They’re equipped with the best amateur cameras on the market, come equipped with easy-to-grasp editing tools, and can send your work out to the internet with a few taps.
While the term “social media influencer” brings to mind selfies taken on yachts and beaches, a growing number of seniors are getting in on the action.
Doña Angela, a grandmother from rural Mexico, started a cooking channel called “De Mi Rancho a tu Cocina” with the help of her daughter, equipped only with her kitchen and a smartphone. Today, her channel has more viewers than culinary giants like Jamie Oliver, Martha Stewart, and Gordan Ramsay. Doña Angela never set out to become internet famous — she just wanted to share her passion for cooking with the world, and people latched onto it.
Even if your intended audience is your family, your friends, or no one at all, there are some noticeable cognitive benefits to content creation. Taking the effort to make something, be it a simple selfie or a fully-fledged video, is a great mental workout.
More importantly, posting regular updates encourages us to do things. If you don’t have family at home to cook for, posting a video online can help keep your interest in cooking alive. Taking photos of wildlife can encourage you to go outside and explore. Even selfies encourage things like self-care and proper hygiene, encouraging people to take pride in their appearance even if they’re homebound.
Social media is designed to connect people who share similar interests. It’s written into the algorithms that make sites like Twitter and TikTok function. If you show interest in a specific show, hobby, or genre of music, these services will connect you with people who also enjoy those things.
The internet is full of these communities and fandoms, all of which are centered around one topic or another. Discussing one’s interests is another way to form connections and expand our social networks, and provides no shortage of stimulation.
Want to gush about your favorite show? Sites like Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr are practically designed for that. Want to share recipes or decorating ideas? Pinterest has a board with your name on it.
Forging new connections is just as important as maintaining existing ones, especially as we age, so seeking out these communities can be a great way to stave off social isolation and cognitive decline.
Related Reading: Hobbies for Retired Men
Of course, like anything else, social media comes with its downsides, especially for seniors. If you or a loved one is already experiencing cognitive decline, exposing yourself to the internet at large without someone to chaperone you is a perilous idea. Scammers, trolls, and other bad actors prey upon the elderly, so having a tech-savvy family member or caretaker is crucial for those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
There’s also the risk of getting caught up in misinformation. Conspiracy theories about COVID-19 spread on sites like Facebook have led many seniors, who are among the most vulnerable to the disease, to forgo preventive measures like masking and vaccination.
The most insidious part of this misinformation is that once you begin engaging with it, the site’s algorithm will inadvertently begin showing you more misinformation, building up an alternate perception of reality that is misleading at best and outright dangerous at worst. It’s best to avoid getting your news from social media if at all possible, as it can be easy to accidentally tumble into one of these echo chambers.
Social Media for Elderly Adults: FAQ
Social media helps the elderly stay connected with family and friends and avoid a feeling of isolation. Social media also helps the elderly share their passions with the world.
Wrapping Up: Social Media for Elderly People
The best way to use social media is as an impetus for engagement, not an end goal. When used responsibly, it can facilitate healthy social interaction and cognitive activity, boosting seniors’ confidence and sense of independence well into old age.
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I look forward to your views in the comments section. Can you suggest more benefits of social media for elderly people?
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