According to a 2011 article published in The Atlantic, a study by Dr. Shelia Cotten, a sociologist and Associate Professor at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, shows that “Internet use was associated with a 30% decrease in depressive symptoms among older adults who used it regularly.” That’s despite many studies questioning whether social media has made people of all ages lonelier, more narcissistic, or more disconnecting from meaningful social connection.
Instead, Cotten’s study shows that “engagement with their social networks and sense of renewed relevance was the most significant gain for older users. ‘It's this kind of bigger sense of mattering, in the social world, if you will,’ Cotten explains. ‘You're not just something that's been pushed off to the wayside anymore. You still have consequence.’"
Indeed, it’s not hard to understand why seniors are signing up for social media sites at an increasingly rapid rate when the world increasingly takes place online. Books, magazine articles, TV shows, movies, and more can all be found online faster than they can on cable or in print. With family far away and the pace of life moving faster than ever, it’s empowering for seniors to be able to take part in the digital landscape where their children and grandchildren spend so much time. When you consider what a huge place the internet has in our daily lives, it’s no wonder that seniors who aren’t on the web feel left out of even the most banal conversations about, say, paying bills online or shopping for a new dress through a website.
Taking on tech skills can open up social circles, too. Even for seniors who are heavily involved in their communities and with their neighbors and friends at their senior living facility, it’s always pleasant to make new connections and rekindle old friendships. Simply being able to catch up on shows, the latest news, and online tools like document storage can be immensely empowering for seniors who want to keep up with everything while traveling or making other transitions.
Talk to a senior loved one today about how you can help them get online and open up their life through web connections. It’ll be another way for you to stay in touch day to day and to check in on your loved one even if you are far away. Plus you can both have some peace of mind knowing that your senior has the whole world at his or her fingertips, and will be able to easily manage everyday tasks, get in touch with friends, and more thanks to the web.