Ten years ago, few people would have predicted that seniors would become some of social media’s most passionate users. But a study last year by Pew Research Center found that 62% of online seniors are on Facebook. Other studies show that social media use among seniors is rising at a rapid rate. How Dangerous is Social Media to Seniors’ Well-Being?
As more and more seniors use social media, there are growing concerns. Most research indicates that social media improves quality of life for elderly adults. But some senior care professionals are increasingly worried about the dangers that social media could pose to seniors’ well-being.
On the whole, social media seems to have a positive effect on seniors’ well-being. Internet use has been shown to reduce seniors’ risk of depression by as much as 33%. One study found that seniors who use Facebook show marked improvements in cognitive function. Another study found similar results when seniors were trained to use email, Skype, and Facebook.
Social media also opens new avenues for seniors separated from children and grandchildren by long distances. Facebook makes it easy to keep in touch with family members. Video-calling is particularly popular with seniors, who use services like Skype to connect with their grandchildren. And in recent years, tech-focused senior care services have made using social media easier and safer than ever for elderly adults.
So why are some people concerned about the dangers of social media for elderly well-being?
One common concern is that social media could, over time, make seniors more depressed. When researchers have surveyed social media users of all ages, they’ve found that more social media use is linked with higher risk of depression. However, this concern might be overblown among the elderly — after all, research has found that online seniors are less depressed than others.
A study out of the University of Missouri might explain why. In that study, researchers found that the risk of depression only rose in social media users who were using sites like Facebook to compare themselves to others. Depression was tied to an increase of jealous feelings and lower self-esteem. If users were using social media primarily to keep in contact with others, their risk of depression did not increase. Since most seniors use social media for keeping in contact with family and friends, it makes sense that most seniors aren’t at high risk of depression due to social media use.
A much bigger concern is how social media affects seniors’ in-person interactions. Senior isolation is a serious problem among the elderly, one with devastating health effects. Social media use can alleviate some of these effects, but it’s not enough. Seniors need to regularly spend time in the physical presence of others to avoid the emotional, mental, and physical effects of senior isolation.
If seniors and their families start to treat social media as a replacement for in-person interaction, that could put a greater percentage of seniors at risk for feelings of isolation and loneliness.
“There are obvious benefits to social media use among seniors,” says Larry Meigs, CEO and President of Visiting Angels. “If social media is used to augment in-person contact, that’s fantastic. But there’s a real concern that seniors and their family members might have less of these interactions the more they rely on social media.”
Ultimately, social media is a positive tool for seniors, families, and senior care providers. But it’s something that should be approached with a degree of caution. If social media is your loved one’s main avenue for social interaction, or if you’ve noticed they’re spending less time with others now that they’re on Facebook, it may be time to consider a change.
Spending more time with your loved one is always a welcome solution. But it might not be enough. If you live far away or have a busy schedule, frequent visits aren’t always practical. In these cases, you might encourage your loved one to spend more time with friends and acquaintances. You could even suggest they join a local club or organization that you think they’d find enjoyable.
Finally, you might consider companion care services, a specialized form of senior care that helps the elderly avoid isolation by providing conversation and companionship in the comfort of home. To learn more about social media assistance for seniors and companion care services offered in your area, contact your local Visiting Angels today.
How Dangerous is Social Media to Seniors’ Well-Being? How Dangerous is Social Media to Seniors’ Well-Being? How Dangerous is Social Media to Seniors’ Well-Being? How Dangerous is Social Media to Seniors’ Well-Being? How Dangerous is Social Media to Seniors’ Well-Being? How Dangerous is Social Media to Seniors’ Well-Being?
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Compassionate, dignified at home senior care is close to home when you connect with your local Visiting Angels office by calling 800-365-4189.View All Articles