For seniors, staying connected digitally means staying connected socially

The digital divide among generations is growing smaller. A 2017 American Pew Research Center survey showed that Internet use among seniors has grown steadily over the past decade, with 67% of adults ages 65 and older reporting that they are now online. Smartphone ownership among American seniors has doubled over the past five years, and there’s no reason to believe that Canada is any different.

Seniors are enthusiastically sharing photos and the latest viral videos on Facebook, and calling their grandkids on Skype and FaceTime. They’re joining online chat groups to discuss everything from gardening to the latest health trends. Seniors who can’t get out as much are also discovering that online support groups tailored to a particular interest, activity or health condition can help to counter loneliness and forge new friendships. Additionally, many retirees love to play video, word or memory games online, playing solo or with friends.

Of particular interest, a recent English and Italian study found that seniors who were trained in the use of social media, Skype and email performed better in cognitive tests and reported improved health over a control group who received no training.

Tips on getting connected

Reading newsIf you’re hesitant or shy regarding learning about lap tops, tablets and smartphones, don’t be! Ask your grandchildren or any young person to show you how to work Skype (free video calling to friends and family); Facebook (lets you find out what friends and family are up to, while also allowing you to share your own messages, links and photos); or the Internet or email in general. You can also consider contacting your local library, senior centre, community college or adult learning centre for beginner or senior-focused classes.

Most seniors’ residences have a computer room or area; if you’re a resident, think about approaching a computer-savvy friend or fellow resident to help you learn the ropes.Many Chartwell retirement communities have computers or computer rooms available for their residents. In fact, some even offer beginner classes for seniors who are interested in learning how to use a tablet, smart phone or computer through our LiveNow lifestyle programming. Download a sample activity calendar today to learn more.