As a loved one ages, one of the most serious impacts on health and wellness is the loss of social opportunities. Retiring and leaving work friends behind and experiencing the loss of friends, spouses and partners can all shrink a senior’s social circle to the point that suddenly they realize they’ve become isolated and lonely. But helping a senior stay socially connected isn’t hard to do if you give it a little effort and try these expert tips.
If you think a senior you care for isn’t able to use technology to stay socially connected, think again. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, seniors’ use of the internet to stay socially connected has grown considerably. According to the AARP press release Tech Usage Among Older Adults Skyrockets During Pandemic, the AARP 2021 Tech Trends Report found that overall seniors ages 50 and above now see technology favorably as a means of staying socially connected, which is reflected in the growth of video chat usage from 2019 to 2020 from approximately half to 70%.
Video chat is one key way for seniors to stay socially connected but a study by the Pew Research Center also found that adoption of other technologies also increased from 2019 to 2021. For example, YouTube use has grown from 70% to 83% for ages 50-64 and from 38% to 49% for those 65 and older. Social media is another area of growth which saw a four-fold gain from 2010 to 2021 among seniors 65 and older.
Among the many tech tools available are smart phones, iPads and tablets, and computers as well as new senior-specific devices with special features designed to make their use easier for older adults. For a look at a few of the best, read the techradar.com article, Best tablets for seniors of 2023.
Despite the popularity and convenience of technology, helping a senior stay socially connected should also include helping them meet with others in person. This may mean driving them to a local senior center, inviting them (and providing transportation) to family events, spending time with them at home or visiting favorite venues, and helping them to rebuild relationships with peers.
If a loved one is still able to drive and get around unaided, another way to help them become socially connected is to offer ideas like volunteering, life-long education, clubs, and other organized ways seniors routinely meet and share time together. To help them get going you can pitch in on research such as finding local volunteer opportunities like those on americorps.gov or habitat.org, making a list of life-long-education classes such as through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, or clubs like those described in the money.usnews.com article, 10 Senior Clubs to Join.
If your senior loved one is cut off from kids and grandkids, take the time to orchestrate get-togethers that include all generations and offer something everyone can do together. Some ideas include:
No matter what’s on the agenda, it will be a special time for making memories that will last a lifetime.
Even though your senior loved one may have been among the very first to use computers at work and home, the leaps and bounds of technology since then can make learning new technologies overwhelming. When teaching a new technology to a senior you can make it easier by providing written instructions in addition to hands-on lessons. Be sure to include trouble-shooting tips like turning the device off and back on (aka rebooting) and links for instructional videos like those on YouTube that offer lessons on topics like staying safe online and connecting a device to a printer.
Helping a senior you care about stay socially connected can be enriching for you and for them by forging a closer and more caring relationship along the way. Consider a senior living community like Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant where socialization for seniors is built in and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! Learn more in our free Senior Living Options Guide.