With a lot of time on their hands, seniors might find it difficult to keep themselves busy in retirement. So, aside from encouraging them to work on a hobby they find interesting, you can also introduce your parents or loved one to the wonders of the internet and social media websites.
Today, at least 66% of seniors over the age of 65 are on social media to stay in touch with family and friends, manage their appointments, and keep up-to-date with the latest news. And if you'd like your senior parent to enjoy these benefits, too, here's how you can help them navigate the world of social media.
Highlight What’s Important
Social media — and technology as a whole — can be confusing for some seniors. While today’s technological innovations have made our daily lives more convenient, it can also seem incredibly complex. Getting on social media has a slight learning curve, and in order to persuade a senior loved one to even show interest, you should emphasize how it can help them have an active social life and keep them updated with the lives of their family and friends.
Having an active social life is incredibly important for seniors. In fact, a study in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society points out that seniors who are engaged in healthy discussions and social activities experience a 70% decrease in overall cognitive decline. When getting started with social media, be sure to help your senior parent with the ins and outs of a specific platform and be available whenever they need guidance or assistance.
Warn Them of the Risks
Unfortunately, social media is not all fun and games. For instance, not everything that’s posted online is vetted and there are a lot of posts that contain deceptive information. In addition, Dr. Leilani Carver-Madalon, an assistant professor on the online master’s in strategic communication and leadership program at Maryville University, points out that many people fall victim to hoaxes and false information online because we tend to trust our social networks. "Just like we trust our friends, we tend to trust our social networks and often will simply believe information coming from a friend,” Carver-Madalon explains in a Forbes article.
Without being able to discern which is true on social media, older folks might put their finances and safety at risk. While official numbers show that at least 5% of the senior population fall victim to scams, David Brune, a professor at the University of Toronto, notes that this particular statistic is an underestimate because most of these incidents go unreported.
With that in mind, it's all the more important to warn your senior parent of the dangers and risks that lurk on social media. Additionally, it’s also in their best interest to join social media literacy workshops. Non-profit organization Senior Planet has sponsored classes, where they teach seniors how to use reputable fact-checking websites like FactCheck.org and Snopes to see whether a meme is peddling fake news or if a news article is based on facts. So before signing up a loved one on a social media website, consider having them take social media literacy classes to help them have a fun and safe experience online.
Exclusively written for slm.net
By Alicia Bernard