The advent of social media and its evolution has been nothing short of rapid, affecting almost every aspect of our lives. The way we communicate with people, organize as communities, do business, and advertise services have all changed drastically.
This change is not limited to specific younger generations either. According to a 2023 research study by the Pew Research Center, almost 45% of adults aged 65 and above use social media. This forces us to not just think about the impact of social media usage on all of our lives, but the benefits it brings to seniors.
From being engaged in online communities with like-minded people to connecting with old childhood friends and relatives around the world, senior engagement on social media has a significant impact on their cognitive health and emotional well-being.
Understanding the Popularity of Social Media Among Seniors
Before we get into the exact benefits of social media platforms for seniors and their cognitive health, let’s see if we can understand the reasons why it’s becoming so popular among seniors.
Over time, internet usage has become easier for people of all ages, especially with the convenience and accessibility that handheld devices offer. One does not need to be tech-savvy or have specific digital skills to use social media, and this is one of the biggest reasons for seniors using these platforms. Moreover, these social media platforms are free to join and use.
Another reason is the incredibly vast variety of content. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter, there is so much senior-specific content that seniors from all backgrounds will find something to keep themselves engaged with.
Then there are the online communities, including general interest communities, hobby-specific communities, and communities for people with shared health conditions. Regardless of the area of interest, social media allows seniors to engage with other people, so much so in fact, that war veterans from World War 2 who served in the same units but did not see each other for decades afterward can create private groups and relive their camaraderie once again.
Key Benefits of Online Social Communities for Seniors
Enhancing Social Interaction and Combating Loneliness
With so many different types of content and online communities, social media can be a very effective tool in combating loneliness. It can be just as effective in preventing depression and possibly give seniors a profound sense of belonging.
In addition to reducing loneliness, the interpersonal connections that can be created can be healthy for seniors’ overall emotional well-being.
Cognitive Stimulation and Mental Health
One of the best ways to ensure a good state of mental health in seniors is to provide good cognitive stimulation. All the different engagement that social media has to offer can provide that very stimulation through engagement with others through watching educational content or playing an online game.
These platforms can also be used in learning new skills or to even start a business. With so much mental stimulation, seniors have a great avenue through which one can prolong cognitive decline.
Physical Health and Active Living
Online social communities do not only have an impact on mental health but also physical health, according to experts such as Dr. Margaret Neale, co-author of Ageless Grace. Many studies have also suggested the same, as these online social connections could motivate seniors to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
This could include exercising more or sticking to a balanced diet, but, at the end of the day, the outcome is increased physical activity and improved overall health. Improved health also translates to reducing healthcare costs in the long run.
Navigating Online Safety and Digital Literacy
While social media does have benefits to offer for seniors, that is no reason to disregard online safety. If a senior in your family is new to social media and the internet, make sure you walk them through basic safety guidelines so they don’t fall victim to online scams.
Seniors should be told not to provide any personal information on social media and keep all profiles set to private. Never post any content that would give away any personal information either. For example, make sure house numbers and car license plate numbers don’t appear in any pictures or videos. Also, never send money to anyone who you meet on a social media platform.
Real-Life Success Stories and Case Studies
Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of social media among seniors. The Pew Research Center concluded in one of its studies that seniors who use social media claim to find more satisfaction with their lives and overall health.
Similarly, the University of California, San Francisco found in 2019 that online social communities can help seniors in coping with stress and anxiety.
These benefits have been recognized so much that there are entire online social communities dedicated to providing support for seniors. One shining example of this is The Wellbeing Project, a joint initiative by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Kaiser Permanente. The Wellbeing Project’s work has also been given much credit for improving the quality of life of seniors.
The American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP, offers a Digital Navigator Program that provides one-on-one support to seniors who are just starting their journey in the world of online social communities. Seniors can learn how to use social media safely, and the Program connects seniors to other like-minded individuals as well.
Last, but not least, is Silver Voices, an online community designed for seniors who want to get involved in social activism. It has become quite popular, allowing seniors to express themselves for causes they care about and connect with other similar individuals and share experiences.
Get Involved In Online Communities Today
In a nutshell, it is quite clear that social media and online social communities can have a significant positive impact on the mental well-being of seniors. It also allows them a platform to enable their personal growth, even at such a late stage in their lives.
As such, seniors must be encouraged to use social media and connect more with others. The social engagement, emotional support, and sense of belonging that seniors can find on social media can go a long way in improving their quality of life and ensuring their mental and cognitive health.
One community organization that runs a very impressive online community is Northwood, an NPO based in Halifax, NS. Not only do they offer assistance to seniors, but they also have a range of assistive medical devices that can help seniors improve and maintain their quality of life.
To learn more visit Northwood Intouch. You can also call us at +1 (902) 492-3346 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org