Loneliness and isolation can be a big problem for older people in terms of both physical and mental health, and social networking can really help to alleviate the problem. Far from being the domain of youngsters, seniors are increasingly taking to the idea of social networking.
How social networking can help
Perhaps the biggest benefit of social networking is that it allows us to keep in touch with friends and family wherever they may be. And that's particularly important for older people who may not see relatives as often as they would like, or who struggle to find physical opportunities to socialise. Social networking allows seniors not only to keep in touch with relatives, but also to communicate with friends who may live a distance away or with whom they had previously lost contact.
Sites such as Facebook and Instagram are a great way for family members to share photos, even if they're on the other side of the world, while older adults can also look up old friends or even join groups and pages devoted to their specific interests or hobbies, from which they might make new friends with whom to share their thoughts, ideas or latest achievements. Social networking also provides a tool with which people can find others from around the world who may have had shared experiences in the past.
Social networks or online forums might also help those suffering from a chronic health condition. There are many forums and networks, often via charities, where people can share their worries, ask questions or provide advice to others with the same condition.
Last but not least, social networking can provide links and entertainment, whether that's online games, music or movies.
For older folk that aren't very internet savvy, it's a good idea for a friend or family member to help them get started. It's important to stress that social networking doesn't require huge amounts of computer experience or technical knowledge. Simply showing someone how to post a comment, make contact with others, and perhaps uploading images is a great introduction. What is also useful is to alter privacy settings to help keep seniors safe while using social networking, and create a bookmark to the sites they might use in order to reduce the chances of entering personal details on a bogus site. A little advice about steering clear of potentially dodgy emails, links and scams is also worthwhile.
Sites for seniors
The big names in social networking such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are, of course, open to all, but there are also sites aimed specifically at the mature user. Eldr is a great resource for seniors, allowing users to participate in forums, or blog to connect with others, while it also provides articles on everything from exercise to the environment. Olderiswiser.com is another great site, with featured articles, online learning, forums, blogs and competitions.
Once people have got started with social networking and realised that it's really quite simple, they will almost certainly start to explore the worldwide web further, stay connected and make new friends.
Has one of your older relatives recently started social networking? Leave your comments below...