Although younger generations might debate over whether the internet alienates or connects people, increasingly the older population is finding the digital world a positive method for combating feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Twice a week George speaks with his grandchildren and daughter face-to-face despite the fact that they are 100 miles from his home in Coventry. Ria, his live-in care helper, assists him with logging onto Skype on his laptop to talk to five-year-old Emily and nine-year-old Ethan. That allows him to find out how their days have been going, what they’re doing in school, and in return, he tells them about how things are going for him.
It is part of the daily magic that most of us take for granted now thanks to the advent of the internet – being able to be with our friends and loved ones now even when we are geographically separated. However, for elderly individuals such as 74-year-old George, who has mobility issues that restrict a lot of his contact with the outside world beyond his home, this can mean the difference between staying in daily contact with his family and disconnection.
For elderly individuals, especially housebound ones, using social media and the internet has shown to provide positive effects when it comes to alleviating isolation, boredom, and loneliness. This can be a very powerful tool, combined with live-in care from Gabriel’s Angels, to enable individuals to stay connected with the world, and also to broaden their horizons during a time when they feel as if they are contracting.
It is clear that this demographic agree: in terms of internet use, the 65+ age group is among the fastest growing segments. Also, it was shown in a recent study that 71 percent of people went online on a daily basis, and 34 percent used social media on a regular basis. However, according to the research conducted by the charity organisation Age UK, the early decade is still the sweet spot, with 62 per cent of individuals 75 and older never having used the internet, either from not ever being introduced to the fundamentals in order to build their confidence, being afraid of “doing something wrong,” or feeling that it is “not for me.”
Click to Say Hi
Video messaging platforms like Skype are very popular ways of bridging the geographical gap between friends, loved ones, and relatives, both at home and abroad. For the older generation, they are one part of the overall internet toolkit that is at their disposal.
According to research, social media is used by the 65+ demographic in a way that is very different compared to the younger generation. The older generation is not interested in the ‘selfie culture – but instead are more concerned with exchanging useful information, connect with like-minded people, and their privacy.
For example, having the ability to talk online with other people, in Facebook groups or pages, for example, who might be experiencing the same problems helps to reduce feelings of isolation – and can serve a role that might not be able to be filled by even close family members. Doctors and other types of healthcare professionals also have Facebook pages set up that are based on certain conditions – ranging from diabetes to dementia – where individuals can join and receive and give support without needing to leave their homes.
It is only one aspect of a vital gateway being provided by the internet to the outside world at a time when access is limited otherwise. Also, many elderly individuals are turning as well to the web as being an important information portal and educational tool as well.
From being able to keep up with current news to having access to internet banking home shops, services, and goods to reading a digital travelogue or finding a book review, being able to access services and do research online can help to empower the elderly individuals, and put them firmly into their choices and lives once again.
For those who are willing and able, blogging is also an option – which provides a way to exercise the memory, imagination, or mind as the elderly individual shares their experiences and thoughts with their readers.
Cognition is Engaged
It isn’t simply the emotional aspects of elderly life that a digital boost can benefit. It has also been shown by research that using the internet on a regular basis can play an essential role in helping to exercise a senior’s mind.
A study called ‘Age 2.0’ was conducted for more than two years on 120 seniors in Italy and the UK found that when elderly individuals were trained on how to use email, Skype, and social media they showed improved cognitive performance and overall health. It was shown that physical and mental capacity improved, whereas the control group in both showed a steady decline.