The Benefits of Technology for Seniors – Healthy Social Media use – Lauren Carlson

The older adult population consists of individuals that are 65 years and older.  As individuals age, social isolation and loneliness have been seen to have negative effects on health and wellbeing among older adults (Khosravi, Rezvani, and Wiewirora, 2017).   Social networking websites (SNSs) such as Facebook (FB) and Pinterest have become very popular among the younger cohorts, while internet-using older adults have not yet adapted this communication.  It is often known that older adults are uncomfortable with new technology making them more resistant to using technology than younger adults.   A stereotype older adults are faced with is that the elderly are unable to learn new skills, making older adults regularly overlooked when it comes to opportunities for teaching use of technology.  Teaching older adults the proper way to use technology, increases older adults communication with friends and family members, improves cognitive functions, and increases connectedness by reducing social isolation.

Websites site such as Facebook (FB) and Pinterest are commonly referred to as social media.  These social media applications are internet-based sites that allow the users to exchange content such as videos, pictures, and posts, while also being able to instant message on another.  Individuals are using social media as an outlet to share and receive information, along with being able to meet and communicate with family, and friends that do not live nearby.

In todays society, many people are using different types of social media to communicate and get involved, some adults as old as 90 + years and cohorts as young as ten years old, are using different social medias to connect.  However, for many middle to older generations, it is tricky learning how to navigate these site in order to benefit form all the amenities these social outlets are capable of.  FB and Pinterest are two giant social networking sites that are both similar and different in the ways of use.  For instance, FB has 1.86 billion users that are active on the website every month world wide, with an average age of 40-years-old among users (Zephoria).  During this age group many individuals have a family, or children growing up and are in the best moments of life, including owning a house, children are getting older, playing sports, and creating educational accomplishments.  Also during this time, many older adults are becoming or are currently grandparents, wanting to be apart of and see their children and grandchildren lives as they grow and develop.  FB is a great social network/app for older adults who want to be connected with their family, this social network is perfect for uploading and sharing images, videos, and comments about what is going on in one’s everyday life.  Making it easy for other to view and be apart of what one share.

Pinterest being another great app that is filled with millions of ideas, and do it your self (DIY) projects, ranging from health and wellness, crafts, recipes, exercises, and different clothing style ideas.  Having an average of 150 million user’s world wide, ages ranging from teenagers to late adulthood.  Pinterest allows one to search and save ideas to a personal profile called “your board”, this allows one to be able to revisit all the ideas that were previously pinned.  Many adults get ideas from Pinterest such as, easy crafts for children such as making slime, or glitter jars, or finding new dinner ideas.  This also can help older adults not only find new exercises or recipes to maintain physical health, but also fun family ideas to help connect with their grandchildren and their interest.  It is important the we familiarize older adults with social media and everything it has to offer to reduce social isolations and increase connectedness among family, friends, and peers.

In furthering the usage of technology among older adults, and improving their navigation through social media sites, that comes with the desire and motivation to do so.  Through further research, studies have been conducted to measure social media and its ability to provide connectedness in older adults.  In one study done in Australia by Sinclair and Grieve, 2017, focused on if older adults are able to obtain social connectedness from FB.  This consisted of 280 participants between the ages of 55 and 81 that were average FB users, who contributed in the survey about personal social media use and level of connectivity experienced.  The research showed how it is important for individuals to maintain meaningful relationships with others, this being a constant unchanging human goal.  Along with the belongingness theory, which proposed that people are motivated to experience social memberships in order to achieve optimal functioning (Sinclair & Grieve, 2017).  Research showed that FB, as an online social networking site has been shown to protect against negative wellbeing outcomes.  The results showed according to the data collected, these participants were using FB at a rate that should allow them to benefit form social connectedness, having and average of 161 FB friends, and spending  an average of 126 minutes a day on the app.  Showed that older adults are able to gain feelings of social connectedness from an online environment, benefitting and straining away form social isolation and increased wellbeing (Sinclair & Grieve, 2017).

As we encourage older adults in using technology, we want to make sure they feel comfortable and do not feel and do not feel pressure to use it, which is what Michael Braun conducted in his study.  Braun 2013, went into further detail on why getting older adults to feel comfortable primarily with technology use and the use of FB is critical in order to increase their experience while using social media and other net working sites.  In introducing the older adults into FB and Pinterest, some common concerns include factors that eliminate the confidentiality and comfort of the older adult.  When signing up or FB and Pinterest or any other social media site, it often asks for information that young individual are conformable giving, such as email, phone number, date of birth, state of residence, along with other items that many young adults would not hesitate to give out.  This information tends to have a stronger affect on older adults making them feel more insecure and worried about giving out such information, if not given out before, making them refrain from social networks (Chiu, 2016).   It is important to talk and inform older adults on why this information is needed, and could close the digit gap helping make them more comfortable on social media sites.   By closing this digital gap it will have opened up the communication between younger and older cohorts by improving their ability to adapt and become accustomed to the use of technology and social media sites.  It is also necessary to create more Senior Plant Exploration Centers, around the United States, that teach older adults how to become more comfortable while being online (Gustke, 2016).  It is important to implement program similar to this, because in return it will be an advantage for older adults, working to improve their communication, involvement, and interactions within families, and friends through FB.  This will improve their knowledge about what their family is doing throughout the weeks based off their shared pictures, videos, and posts.  Older adults will also be able to share about their daily or weekly events and activities, as well as share pictures of themselves (Braun, 2013).  Research has also shown that be being involved in these social media sites, encourages brain stimulation within older adults, in doing so cognitively, while working to change and improve moods, attitude, wellbeing, connectedness, and reduction of social isolation.  Which in turn, results in the willingness to work with these different social media site, such as FB and Pinterest (Braun, 2013).

FB is more than simply sharing photos and videos, it gives uses the opportunity to explore the web, with FB also providing products to its users, such as cooking videos, home goods and crafts, clothing, and gardening or landscaping.  There is an array of opportunities being presented to the social media population, but also to older adults that need more social connectedness.  From older adults seeing opportunities for new ideas, and sparking interest in previously enjoyed activities, it encourages them to continue doing the things they used to like such as knitting, making crafts, and cooking new recipes.  This allows older adults to potentially share their creations if they wanted to, while also letting them get further involved in the growing community of social media each day.  Once older adults have discovered how to use FB, they can then invest their time in other social media websites that also encourage exploration, and learning new things.  Pinterest is the perfect example of this, being easy to use, while emphasizing images over text to its users, makes it the perfect appeal to older adults.  With its growing popularity by allowing its users to browse in various categories of ideas and providing examples in letting individuals replicate and DIY their own creations. This is especially great for retirees looking to expand on senior living hobbies, such as traveling, cooking, gardening, painting, etc..  Pinterest’s website benefits older adults by increasing their ability to share anything they’ve found, while also being an easy site to navigate (Erikson, 2016).  These social media sites, help encourage creativity, trying new ideas, and applying them to everyday activities along with sharing them within their community of friends (Braun, 2013).   This pushes older adults to participate in the growing world of social media, while also helping improve cognitive functions and abilities, and increasing individual wellbeing all together.  Through this research we have seen that educating older adults on how to use social media, increases older adult’s communication with friends and family members, helps improves cognitive functions, and increases connectedness by reducing social isolation.

Reference

Braun, Michael.  “Obstacles to Social Networking Website Use Among Older

Adults”.  Sciencedirect.com.  N.p., 2013.  Web.  19 Apr.  2017.

Chiu, Ching-ju et al.  “The Attitudes, Impact, And Learning Needs of Older Adults Using Apps

On Touchscreen Mobile Devices: Results from A Pilot Study”.  Sciencedirect.com.  N.p.,

  1.   Web.  21 Apr.  2017.

Erickson Living.  “With More Than 70 Million Users, Pinterest Appeals to Seniors | Erickson

Living”.  Ericksonliving.com.  N.p., 2016.  Web.  22 Apr.  2017.

Gustke, Constance.  “Making Technology Easier for Older People to Use”.  Nytimes.com.  N.p.,

  1.   Web.  17 Apr.  2017.

Khosravi, Pouria, Azadeh Rezvani, and Anna Wiewirora.  “The impact of technology on older

adults’ social isolation”.  Sciencedirect.com.ezproxy2.library.colostate.edu.  N.P., 2017. 

            Web.  20 Apr.  2017.

Sinclair, Tara, and Rachel Grieve.  “FB as A Source of Social Connectedness in Older

Adults”.  Sciencedirect.com.ezproxy2.library.colostate.edu.  N.p., 2017.  Web.  21 Apr.  20

Zephoria.  “The Top 20 Valuable FB Statistics “.  Zephoria.com.  N.p., 2017.  Web.  23 Apr.  2017.

 

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