According to a recent study done by Pew Research Center, 45% of adults 65 and over use at least one social media site. This number has grown largely due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, as social media has been an excellent way to stay connected during social distancing and quarantine orders.
Social connection and wellness are an integral part of an older adult’s overall health, and social media can help fulfill a person’s need for community and social engagement. However, as with many things online, social media can pose certain safety risks to its users—especially older adults.
Brickmont Assisted Living has assisted living and memory care communities throughout the Atlanta, Georgia, area and encourages older adults to get online and get connected safely. We want to share five ways social media can positively impact the lives of seniors, as well as some social media safety tips.
1.Sharpens Social & Technology Skills
Using either a desktop computer or a mobile phone for social media can open the door for older adults to become more savvy using devices they may not be familiar with. They’ll learn how to view their newsfeed, comment on other’s posts, and maybe even take and upload photos of their own! Not only will this get your loved one more comfortable online, but learning new tools also keeps the brain busy and sharp.
In addition to learning tangible skills like using a computer or smartphone, social media is also an effective way for older adults to understand and practice their social skills in an online environment. The social norms and standards of interacting with someone online differ significantly from those when you interact in person.
For other generations, this “Netiquette” (or “Internet Etiquette”) is second nature, but older individuals may be unfamiliar with these social media norms. Using social media can help them learn how to communicate with people of all ages.
2.Encourages Community Engagement
Many seniors can feel lonely and isolated, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping people and families from gathering and interacting. Many have turned to social media to feel connected and engaged again in these times of distance and separation.
With over 2.8 billion users on Facebook alone, social media is an opportune place to meet and connect with others from your community.
- Facebook Marketplace allows you to buy and sell items from local individuals,
- Local event pages give updates on what might be going on at a local coffee shop or park,
- And, Facebook Groups allow users to connect with each other, local or not, who have similar interests and passions.
Joining these groups can be an excellent way for your loved one to dip their toe into the world of social media while staying connected and maybe even making some new friends!
3.Offers a Place to Share and Store Memories
Social media is commonly used for sharing special moments and documenting memories that will last a lifetime. On platforms like Facebook or Instagram, people upload photos of memorable events, like their family trip to Greece, a recent birthday party, or throwback photos from the first day of school. If there is something significant happening in a person’s life, chances are they will upload it to social media.
Grandparents and older family members especially like to cherish and see as many photos as possible of family members and friends. It becomes a lot easier to share these special moments with loved ones who are active online.
4. Fosters Connections with Family and Friends
Whether a family member lives in another state or a neighborhood a few blocks away, they can easily feel distant and even anxious at times, especially during social distancing and quarantine.
Through social media platforms, you can send a quick message to loved ones to see how their day is going or to make sure they did not forget about their appointment they scheduled for later this week.
Aside from family and current friends, social media can also be a great way for older adults to reconnect with old friends, classmates, or neighbors. Many schools will have alumni pages or groups for past classmates to connect.
5.Introduces New Things and Experiences
Lastly, social media is the perfect place to discover new things, learn a new hobby, and ask questions! Whether someone uses it to look up reviews on a new restaurant that opened down the street, read about relevant world news, or watch videos about a DIY project, there’s always something new. All of these options offer avenues for a family member to continue learning new things and staying inspired.
Staying Safe on Social Media
While all of these things are valuable reasons for your loved one to be on social media, they need to practice social media safety. Older adults are at exceptionally high risk for online fraud and internet scams, so they need to be particularly careful when spending time on social media and online in general.
Here are some social media safety tips for your parent to keep in mind:
Use Strong Passwords and Privacy Settings
It’s vital to have strong, unique passwords on every account used, including the computer itself. This prevents other users from accessing private information and other accounts.
Help your parent or family member create passwords that are difficult to guess but that they will remember. You can also keep their passwords organized in a locked spreadsheet, so they will only have to remember the password to that.
Only Accept Requests from People You Know
Ensure your loved one is only accepting or requesting to connect with people they know in real life. It’s not rude or impolite to deny a friend request from a stranger; these fake accounts are a way for scammers to get access to your otherwise private profile.
Once your loved one gets the hang of social media, they might be tempted to share every aspect of their life. However, it’s essential that they know not to overshare because people can use small details for fraud and other scams. Even a seemingly harmful picture of their house could be dangerous if it shows their address.
Be Aware of Scams
Several scams target older adults specifically, including ones referred to as “grandparent scams,” and even more have emerged during the pandemic. Be sure your parent is aware of how these scams work and never give out personal or financial information.
Other helpful social media safety tips when it comes to online scams:
- “Don't post a photo of your [COVID-19] vaccination card online. Scammers can see and steal your name, birth date, and other personal information (usa.gov).”
- Do thorough research into any charity or fundraising organization before donating any money.
- “Scammers say they’re from the IRS or another government agency. They ask for your personal information or try to charge you fake fees for getting your stimulus check or offer you a way to get the money early (usa.gov).”
While social media safety is something that should you take seriously, don’t let it scare your parents from signing up! The benefits exceed the risks, and as long as your family member uses safety and common sense, they can have fun and stay connected!
Social media is something we regularly use at Brickmont Assisted Living. We’ve seen firsthand the impact it can have on a person’s life. We love to connect with our friends, residents, and their families on social media and enjoy when we receive a sweet message from a resident’s family member on a photo we shared or a 5-star review from the resident themselves. Connect with us by visiting our Facebook page!
Brickmont Assisted Living offers assisted living, memory care, and respite care services throughout the Atlanta area, including Woodstock, Acworth, Cumming, and the Atlanta area. For more information on our services or our communities, visit our website!
Updated on July 1, 2021