While we know that social media is widely used among young adults, it’s true that older adults are also using social networks and other technology
at higher rates.
As older adults increasingly incorporate social media into their lives, physicians, families, and caregivers can use it as a tool to improve communication and reduce social isolation.
The “Loneliness Gap”
A 2012 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine
found that 32% of respondents over 60 said they lacked companionship, and 25% reported feeling left out.
This disparity in feelings of isolation among older adults compared to their younger counterparts is called the “loneliness gap.” The use of social media among older adults is an opportunity for their larger community to reach out and help combat social isolation.
Online interactions can be a good way to improve social links with older adults, while maintaining important connections to inform caregiving decisions about potential health and safety issues. Here are some ideas:
- Upload photos (especially of grandchildren). When you’re not able to visit in person, images and updates from loved ones are a great way keep seniors feeling connected day-to-day.
- Share interesting articles. The same way you might share a link or story with a friend on social media, consider sharing posts with older adults that might be of interest to them.
- Check in and say hi. Whether it’s just “happy birthday, grandma!” or a simple “hello,” these touch points are meaningful reminders that you’re thinking of the older adults in your life.
Keep in mind that not all older adults are willing or able to participate in social media. Some have physical or cognitive limitations, so make sure that you find the right level of social media use to ensure successful and safe monitoring.
Do you or the older adults in your life use social media? Tell us how you maintain social connections with loved ones in the comments.