No need to feel guilty about not making the rounds to all of your older relatives and friends this holiday season. Thanks to social media and other tech gadgets, the seniors in your family circle can stay in the in the loop and up to date on the latest family news, photos, and videos.
When Graphic Designer Leslie Kovalic lived and worked in Baltimore, she constantly worried about her older parents living in rural Michigan. Enter technology. Leslie purchased a laptop for them (since replaced by an Ipad), installed Skype, and taught them how to use technology to videoconference and email with her. “When you speak with someone on the phone, you can’t see their expressions. What they say may not match how they feel,” explains Kovalic. “On Skype, you know right away if there is a problem.” What’s more, her parents feel less isolated and in touch with friends and family, including their three-year-old granddaughter.
A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project reports that 43 percent of Americans over 65 use at least one social networking site, compared to just one percent in 2008. In fact, the 74-plus demographic is the fastest growing demographic among social networks, which are opening up new opportunities to reconnect with old friends from college, high school and childhood neighborhoods through Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
For seniors with limited mobility who no longer can travel or visit with family members as frequently as in the past, social media can be a strong antidote for loneliness. Recent studies have found that Internet use is associated with a 20 to 30 percent decrease in depression among older adults.
Seniors might not be the techies their grandchildren are, but don’t underestimate the value of social media and technology in their lives. “When my parents stepped off the plane to visit my three-year-old niece, she called their names immediately even though she had not seen them in person in nearly a year,” explains Kovalic. “Skype and social media are keeping family connections alive.”
If you are still wondering about the perfect holiday present for an older relative or friend, consider a tablet or smartphone, a gift that will keep them connected with friends and family.
Lisa Vogel is the owner of The Lisa Vogel Agency, a home health care agency providing custodial care on a live-in or hourly basis for clients who require long-term care, rehabilitation care or hospice care. If you need help during this busy holiday season in caring for your older relatives or friends, call The Lisa Vogel Agency at 410-363-7770.