Older adults may be slower in their uptake of internet based technologies, but they are more digitally connected than ever. Tweeting, facetiming and face booking are all popular ways to keep in touch with family, grand kids and friends. As social media has become an ever increasingly important platform for social connections older people are using the medium more often.
Active social engagement has been shown to be associated with better health and health outcomes across a number of studies over many years. When a person moves into an aged care facility it may be difficult for them to continue their social connections in the physical sense. They may be some distance away from the neighbourhood in which they have lived, they may be unable to travel to maintain relationships. Family visits then become more important, providing social contact and support but geographic distance or work commitments may hinder their ability to make frequent visits.
The possibilities of digital connection to the wider world offer an important avenue for further social connectedness, including connections with family and friends overseas. Aged care facilities are now getting on-board with most providing wifi access to residents. As a Placement Consultant for aged care accommodation, I always check whether wifi is available when sourcing appropriate aged care accommodation as it has become a highly desired criteria, with families asking for wifi. Not all residents wish to take up new technologies, but their families often bring devices when visiting to connect to other family members or friends.
Access to online resources can enhance the well-being of older adults through more frequent social interactions and better access to information. As reported in the Journal of Ageing and Mental Health a small study was done on a group of 80 year old men, with one group learning computer skills and having internet access whilst the control group did other activities. The study found that “Computer and Internet use seems to contribute to older adults’ well-being and sense of empowerment by affecting their interpersonal interactions, promoting their cognitive functioning and contributing to their experience of control and independence.”