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10 good reasons for older people to get into social media

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Despite its overwhelming popularity and impact on everyday life, many older people still find the thought of using social media very intimidating. By helping parents take those first tentative steps to get online, you can play a key role in combating the appalling trend of loneliness that exists among the over 65s. Care home operator Caring Homes offers reasons as to why you should encourage an older parent or friend to get active on social media.

  1. To stay connected
    Staying in touch with children and grandchildren can be critical to an older person’s sense of belonging and value. Using social media means they can stay in constant contact with everyday family affairs, no matter how far away they may be living. It’s especially useful if they are in a residential care placement, where they may have reduced family contact. Video chat platforms such as Skype and FaceTime also play a particularly important role in introducing someone to engaging online and are very simple to set up.

  2. To connect with old friends and new
    As well as staying connected with existing friends, social media allows older people to identify local groups where they can easily connect with people living in the same town. Facebook’s set-up tutorial immediately guides new users to link to people they know but also helps identify new connections in the local area. They may be surprised by just how many people they already know with Facebook accounts.

  3. To stay up-to-date on current affairs
    Feeling out of touch and sidelined can significantly add to depression and social isolation. People who are active on social media can readily access a huge resource of news and information on issues that directly affect their lives. Local news in particular can help people feel much more engaged in their community, while making them aware of local events. Twitter’s “Popular in your network” email bulletins also help ensure users do not miss out on anything, giving them further opportunities to join in.

  4. To enhance hobbies and interests
    Losing access to once-beloved hobbies and passions can be very hard for older people to adjust to. If they become less mobile or go to residential care, they may not be able to take part in regular activities that once formed a cornerstone of their community engagement. Facebook groups can act as bridges, reconnecting people back to what they love, while Twitter’s Discover function allows them to actively seek out conversations on specific interests and locate new resources and insights.

  5. To gain confidence
    You are never too old to do anything and that’s completely true about getting online and active with social media. At 81-years-old, Dilys Price OBE didn’t let age stop her when she became the oldest person ever to skydive. While not everyone needs to jump out of a plane to feel inspired, exciting social media content can make everyone feel inspired to try something new and broaden their horizons. Sharing funny or insightful content creates opportunities to engage with new social groups and start new conversations.

  6. To research past and present
    Former actress Pauline Dale received basic IT training at her care home near Milton Keynes, as part of a project to get older people online. She began by setting up a personal email account and was instantly hooked - researching her past film credits and film history. Now she uses it every day to reach out to friends and family and to do her shopping. Many older people first start learning about the internet through using the user accounts of their friends or family. By helping ensure they set up their own email, Facebook and Twitter accounts you can help them get more tailored content that will enhance their experience.

  7. To get socially active in other ways
    There is increasing evidence to show that social media can significantly encourage people to stay active in other ways too. It encourages people to get out and about, retain social connections and join local activity groups. Social media also provides access to many money-saving opportunities on local events and activities, meaning that older people on a fixed income can take advantage of discounts that they otherwise may not be made aware of.

  8. To help put an end to loneliness
    Loneliness and isolation need to be tackled in the UK and social media has a big part to play in helping communities stamp it out once and for all. In 2014, a two-year study led by the University of Exeter showed clear links between the use of social media and the well-being of older people. The 76 people involved in Age 2.0 found that by using Facebook and Twitter every day, they experienced ‘heightened feelings of self-competence’, engaged more readily in other social activities and had much-improved physical and mental well-being.

  9. To enjoy learning again
    Many local authorities host a variety of basic computer training courses that include introductions to using social media for beginners. A short course is a great way to reinforce and enhance an older person’s journey as they learn more and develop their skills. Encouraging an older parent to attend can give them confidence to learn in a very supportive environment with other beginners. Attending a course can also be a great way to meet people and get those first few online friends to engage with. Creating a Pinterest or Facebook photo album is a great first project to get older people up and running on social media as they can then share that with family and friends and instantly see the benefits of their efforts.

  10. To ensure older parents always have a voice
    As an increasing number of people across the UK struggle with loneliness and depression, social media steps in and offers them a vital lifeline. Getting into social media has never been easier and with the growing number of apps and tablets that are specifically aimed at older people, there’s no excuse for not helping parents get more socially active.

By helping older people overcome the hurdles to get online and active in social media, you can play a significant role in improving their lives, and in ending the terrible trend of loneliness that exists in the UK.

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