As the number of family members and friends become sparse and health declines towards the end of life, the social media sites of Facebook and Pinterest may be extremely beneficial and valuable to seniors. Facebook is a social networking site that users can create their own profile on, post pictures and videos, send messages and stay in communication with family and friends. Pinterest is a visual material based website that works as a virtual pin board, allowing the ability to view, post, and save images, videos, articles, and recipes from the Internet. Seniors experience age-graded changes later in life that have significant impacts and may be difficult to recover from on their own. Facebook and Pinterest have great potential to serve seniors and improve aging-related problems.
Maintaining connections with loved ones can become more and more challenging as an individual ages. An outcome of a senior’s limited mobility is a decreased participation in activities outside their home and this absence of participation can largely increase loneliness and decrease life satisfaction (Erickson, 2011). Socially isolated seniors also demonstrate an increase in onset of dementia in comparison to seniors who maintain social connections. In an exploratory study, Erickson (2011) had an objective of examining the impact of Facebook on the bridging and bonding social capital of individuals over the age of 65 who use the site at least weekly. Social capital is the function of one’s connections to others and the value of these connections is if and how an individual recognizes and uses the accessible connections. Data were collected by in-depth and semi-structured interviews with participants. Results demonstrated that most participants viewed Facebook as a resorce to keep up with family and friends by being able to see what they were doing. One of the most significant benefits of Facebook is being able to keep up with what is going on in the lives of your loved ones. Participants reported finding joy in learning about things in their family and friends’ lives that they would not know had they not used Facebook. However, the older adults felt that Facebook was not appropriate for personal conversations because they were hesitant to share personal information online. This was because of their lack of trust in the site due to limited understanding of technology and the open nature of Facebook. Participants reported trusting those they were connecting with but not trusting the public nature of Facebook. Despite participants being hesitant to communicate information, many reported receiving emotional support via Facebook through communicating with others who may have shared similar experiences such as medical problems or the loss of a husband or wife. Overall, the seniors concluded that Facebook was predominantly used to be aware and keep up with loved ones’ everyday activities and health or medical problems and they claimed they benefitted from this awareness through increased feelings of connectedness to loved ones. Facebook, without a doubt, has aspects seniors can benefit from, but in order for more seniors to use the site and use it to its full potential and depth, Facebook should pay more attention to privacy concerns. Privacy options that are easy to find and understand may assist in reducing some of the concerns for this demographic and increasing their use (Erickson, 2011).
Alike Facebook, Pinterest has the ability to better the lives of seniors. Hypertension, heart disease, and type two diabetes are examples of chronic illnesses associated with obesity and poor life choices that significantly impact seniors (Turn, Elci, Resick, & Kalarchain, 2016). Lack of physical activity, poor diet and nutrition, and elevated body mass index (BMI) are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. An association between these factors and a lower health-related quality of life in older adults has been found. One study implemented a program called Eat Better and Move More in a large-scale, evidence-based study in order to increase physical activity and better diets in seniors. Pinterest would have been a useful resource to use in this study due to an individuals ability to search for physical activity exercises and healthy foods and recipes. Participants included older adults from low-income neighborhoods who were racially and ethnically diverse. The study’s objective was to identify the 12-week interventions effect on eating and physical activity behaviors and also physiologic variables and health-related quality of life. The program consisted of weekly meetings with the participants, which focused on nutritional topics and ways to increase physical activity. Pedometers and sheets to monitor their weekly nutritional and physical activity progress were given to the participants. Results demonstrated that there was a significant increase in participants who consumed three or more daily servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains/high-fiber foods. There was a large shift in the proportion of participants who increased their walking pace from baseline to 12 weeks with 19% less walking at a pace less than two mph at 12 weeks compared with baseline and 19.1% more participants reported walking at two to three mph at 12 weeks compared with baseline. Overall, this study discovered the implementation of a low-intensity, evidence-based healthy eating and physical activity intervention was successful in increasing older adults consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and increasing their physical activity through their pace and amount of walking (Turk, Elci, Resick, & Kalarchian, 2016).
In order to make this program more beneficial and enjoyable for seniors, Pinterest can be used as a tool in searching for and discovering healthy foods and ways the individual can prepare them or have a caretaker prepare for them and also discovering physical activities and exercises they can do that is age and quality of health specific. Two specific physical age-graded changes seniors may experience include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is damage to cartilage and bones underneath the cartilage and it reduces mobility in older adults. One’s knees, hips, and spine may be compressed due to osteoarthritis, but Pinterest can help this issue. By typing “osteoarthritis exercises for seniors” into the search box, Pinterest will present numerous exercises to help alleviate the pains of this condition. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory, autoimmune disease that is more destructive than osteoarthritis, but there are still numerous and easily accessible exercise ideas and demonstrations for seniors to browse through. One potential limitation to Pinterest for seniors is that it may be somewhat confusing at first due to the overwhelming amounts of content. A way to make this site more accessible and better serve seniors is by adding a category called “Seniors- Exercise and Diet” to Pinterest’s already existing group of categories.
Overall, Facebook and Pinterest should be of interest for seniors. The use of these sites can be very beneficial to those desiring to stay connected with their loved ones and those desiring to discover physical exercises and healthy food ideas. Although some changes could be made to better Facebook and Pinterest, both can serve seniors by improving aging-related problems in various ways.
Erickson, L. B. (2011). Social media, social capital, and seniors: The impacts of
Facebook on bonding and bridging social capital of individuals over 65.
America’s conference on information systems, 4-7.
Turk, M. T., Elci, O. U., Resick, L. K., & Kalarchian, M. A. (2016). Wise choices:
Nutrition and exercise for older adults: A community-based health promotion
intervention. Family & Community Health, 39, 4. doi: 263-272.