Betty Love Goodykoontz, a Birmingham centenarian, wrote a poem about the huge technological changes we’ve seen since she was a little girl:“After the pony express we corresponded by post;/ Now email delivers in seconds at most!/ In encyclopedias we used to get our “info;”/ Now the Internet tells us more than we want to know!” Not only has technology changed a lot, more and more seniors like Betty are using the internet to communicate and run their lives. The web offers a wonderful way to connect that isn’t limited by mobility, health, or other aspects of aging that can leave seniors feeling isolated.
More and more seniors are flocking to services like Skype and Facebook to stay in touch with families out of state, friends on the other side of the country, and friends across town. One commonly-cited study by PEW says that people 74 and older are the fastest growing group on social media sites. That adds up to millions of people logging in each day to share photographs, videos, updates, and articles each day.
The benefits for seniors are numerous. Not only can the internet reduce loneliness and give seniors an additional social outlet, learning new skills and routinely taking in new information can have a positive effect on memory function in some cases. It all comes back to the old adage “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” With so many books, magazines, and websites that regularly publish new content, folks with any interests can easily find plenty of reading material, games, and message boards with answers to questions, fun reading, and opportunities to commit new things to memory.
If you live too far away to easily show a senior loved one how to set up these accounts or get started on a computer, never fear. The staff or neighbors at a retirement community could help him or her become more familiar with the web, as could classes at community college or the local community center. There are often classes hosted by the city on the basics, often for free or very little. Your loved one’s senior living community might know who could be a helpful resource for seniors wishing to become more digitally literate.
Many seniors are already comfortable online thanks to skills learned at work or in personal time. Since the internet went public over ten years ago, there have been more and more reasons for people of all ages to get online. Whether a senior loved one is already online or ready to learn, there are so many benefits to spending time on the internet that can greatly improve senior quality of life.