Social connection is vital to healthy aging. It’s been proven to positively impact mental health, boost the immune system, stimulate cognitive functioning which in turn lowers your risk of dementia, and even lowers blood pressure. Those warm and fuzzy feelings you get around good friends aren’t just good for a laugh. Those endorphin-boosting moments help energize you to make healthier choices and live a full life.
Sometimes, in-person connection just isn’t possible, however. Family may life far away, friends may have moved out of the neighbourhood, and that’s where the positive power of technology comes in. When utilized for authentic connection, digital means of social interaction are a valuable way to reduce isolation in older adults.
5 Ways to Digitally Connect Through Technology
1. Facebook! As an established online social destination for sharing pictures, updates, and videos, along with the messenger component for more personal interaction, Facebook is an excellent choice for seniors. With the added benefit of high privacy settings, where the user must personally admit someone into their online space, it’s a relatively safe space.
You can also search out old high school classmates and friends and send a friend request to reconnect after all these years! Plus, Facebook has the Groups aspect for you to seek out like-minded individuals in areas of interest, along with tracking local events that may interest you.
2. Video Messagingwith Marco Polo. Send video messages just like texts with the cross–platform friendly Marco Polo. Watch and send messages when it’s convenient to you, allowing for more personal connection even when one of you has a particularly hectic schedule. Marco Polo also allows for several people to join the conversation.
3. Face-to-Face time with FaceTime, Zoom & Skype allows phone calls to become face-to-face times—and just as simple. While FaceTime is specific to Apple iOS devices and is just like picking up the phone except you get to see the person, Zoom and Skype are similar with the added benefit of scheduled meeting times, available on multiple platforms. All three also support audio calls, and can host groups so multiple people from various places can join in so everyone can stay virtually connected.
4. Have a Movie Night with Teleparty. Have a movie night with faraway friends with Teleparty, which allows you to synchronize your video and take part in group chats in Netlfix, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime.
5. Armchair Travel. An educational way to explore the world from home, and great if mobility or other health reasons prevent actual travel, the power of video technology allows you to wander through gardens, national parks, zoos, and even museums and cultural festivals around the world from the comfort and safety of your living room.
Tips for Safely Connecting in the Digital World
Whenever you create an online account, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the rules and safety settings, so that you can create real boundaries through security measures on who’s allowed to friend you, view your profile, etc. You can also familiarize yourself with our five steps to smartphone safety.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re stumped! Technology is ever-evolving, and to be safely virtually connected, ask a family member to take you through it—and take notes, so you know what to do next time.
It’s also important to establish emotional boundaries. Keep in mind that anything you post on Facebook, for example, is open to commenting from the people you’ve allowed to see your profile. And people have opinions.
Once you’re all set up, the fun begins! Let your friends and family know you’re online, and set up a date.