Skype, email and messaging apps can be a great way to connect with loved ones. More and more older people are getting the benefits from using social media. According to a report published by Pew Research Centre in 2015, 35% of all American adults aged 65 and older said they were on social media. That’s more than triple what was reported in 2010, when only 11% said they were social media users. Although this study is American, many other countries are experiencing similar growth as older people go ‘online.’ The main reasons for this sudden jump include reconnecting with old friends and simply bridging generational gaps. Social media does not limit itself to reconnecting with family and friends, it also has the potential to extend social networks and make new friends which can be important for older people who live alone and may feel isolated. The festive season is a great time to learn or teach your older relatives how to use this technology for their benefit.
How can I learn?
Computer savvy family and friends could be the first port of call if an older person is wanting to know how social media works. Offer a lesson over a cuppa or help set-up software for someone in your community looking to get started. There are also more formalised ways of learning, through community groups such as Social Seniors and SeniorNet who provide courses for older people wanting to get on the Internet, and learn more about new communication and information technology.
What we have learnt from the research is that people will only learn and use these new tools if they find some benefit in them. So if you are wanting your older loved one to continue to use social media, make sure you make it work for them and show them the direct benefit – like being able to talk daily, or watch the grandchildren playing sport via skype etc.
Things to watch out for
Now unfortunately, social media isn’t all positives. There are a number of things to look out for when connecting with people over the internet. Not everyone on social media sites is on there to make friends. Some use it as a tool to scam people. Please be careful and never give out personal details such as credit card numbers, bank details and PIN numbers, as you never know who could be behind a profile. Also, do not give out any details that people could use to steal your identity. Important information about this can be found on Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment NZ Consumer Protection