How Seniors Can Benefit from Social Media

social media and seniors

Going online is quite common these days. Almost every American adult today, no matter their age, has accessed a computer at some point. According to Pew Research, 85% of adults accessed the internet in 2010. By 2020, that number had jumped to 99%[1]. Today, 75% of seniors aged 65 and older are internet users[2].

But while checking websites has become the norm, social media is a corner of the internet that took older adults a bit more time to find. It’s good that they did, however – the American Psychological Association reports that older adults who spend time on social media are healthier, are more involved with their communities, and have better interpersonal relationships.


What can you do with social media? Quite a lot, as it turns out!


Use Weather and Emergency Alerts


Social media can be a wonderful way to learn about what is happening around the world or right there in your own neighborhood. A quick check of the pages dedicated to your local news station can give you information on the weather, the latest traffic report, or even alerts you didn’t expect, such as an emergency evacuation order (pretty rare, but it does happen). You can follow national news sites and those that offer points of interest for seniors, such as AARP. 


87% of those aged 60 or older check the weather daily, and 62% of seniors use social media to get their daily news[3].


How to Stay Safe: If there is a very serious alert issued over social media, don’t just assume that it’s real – back it up by calling friends or family and asking if they have seen the same thing.


Dive Into Life Hacks


Some of the best content online is delivered in the form of “life hacks” on social media. Simply put, a hack is something that makes life easier. A hack often takes the form of using an item for an entirely different purpose than what it was originally intended for, usually with fantastic results. Here are a few of them that were posted on social media:


·         Put a Lazy Susan in your fridge. Having trouble reaching the top shelf and all those little condiment bottles? Put a lazy susan on the shelf of your refrigerator and put those bottles on it. Spin the lazy susan to get what you need without straining to reach it.

·         Use rubber bands to hold glassware. If you have trouble with your hands, putting rubber bands around glasses and cups creates a better grip and makes them easier to hold. This might work with silverware too.

·         Use tactile cues to find small buttons. Putting raised stickers on the volume or channel controls of the remote can help those who have difficulty with vision find the right button command – you just feel for the raised button.

·         Use Velcro on remotes. Do you keep losing your remote? If your remote keeps falling to the floor (which can be a trip hazard in addition to being frustrating), use Velcro to attach it to the arm of your chair for easy access and safekeeping.

·         Put a keyring on your zipper. Have trouble with tiny zippers? Thread a keyring through the zipper pull and there you have it – an easy-to-use zipper!


How to Stay Safe: While many life hacks can be practically life-changing, keep in mind that not all of them will work, and some might be unsafe. If you have any concerns at all, speak to your doctor about it.


Here’s a life hack you might not think about on a day-to-day basis: Did you know that a medical alert pendant can be helpful for much more than getting help when you fall? Medical alert technology is designed to help you at the touch of a button for any emergency or accident that might occur. So if you happen to cut yourself in the kitchen while prepping a meal or feel sudden pain in your chest that scares you, you’d simply press the button and trained professionals will be on the line within seconds.


Reach Out to Your Doctor


Speaking of your doctor, social media is a powerful way to connect. While many doctors have websites and patient portals through which you can communicate, some people choose to follow their doctor on social media as well. In fact, the American Academy of Family Physicians says that 42% of adults either are following their doctor on social media or would like to. What do you get when you do this? In many cases, your doctor will share interesting articles, tips, and suggestions for better overall health. 


How to Stay Safe: Though it might seem as though there’s nothing to fear from connecting with your doctor on social media, be very careful about asking questions about your health in a public space. Keep all of your private information on the patient portal and only interact with your doctor via social media concerning articles, links of interest, and other general things you wouldn’t mind someone else reading.


Find the Resources You Need


Social media is filled with hacks and connections to others. But it’s also filled with potential resources. While you can go to a website to deal with things concerning Medicare, Medicaid, aging in place solutions, and even Alert1 for information on medical alert devices, you can find time-sensitive resources on social media.


For instance, if there is a good sale happening at the shoe store down the street, you might see that notice on Facebook or Instagram. If there’s a community gathering happening at the local senior center, their Twitter account might make it known. You might also be able to get information by asking directly on social media – posing a question about where to find the best medical alert for seniors, for example, could get many responses on your social media page.


How to Stay Safe: Remember that not all resources are reputable or accurate. And remember that reputable places, such as the IRS, will never ask for information via social media. If someone from a professional-sounding organization does ask for personal information, call the organization directly to verify they are seeking that info – it helps you avoid online scammers.


Use the Latest Safety Features


When something bad happens in your local area, friends and family might be very worried about you. Social media is a great way to let them know you’re safe. In fact, some social media platforms will pop up with an “Are You Safe?” button asking if you are okay after a major event in your area. You can also post on social media letting people know you’re okay if an earthquake, flooding, tornado, or other disaster strikes your area.


How to Stay Safe: While using safety features can be quite helpful, keep in mind that it can also allow others to know a great deal about where you are. Disable location tracking on your social media if you will be away from home for an extended period of time. Don’t talk about your vacations until you return – you don’t want the world to know your home is unattended for several days.


Keep in Touch with Family and Friends


Getting in touch with those you love has never been easier. Today there are so many services through social media to help you stay connected to loved ones, including Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, and even Google Voice to send texts. You can send out group texts via Twitter or post pictures of what you’re doing on Instagram. You can talk to those you love via smartphone, tablet, or computer. You can watch your grandchildren grow through photos shared on these sites!


How to Stay Safe: Remember to keep your social media circle small. But also know that sometimes, you might get a message from a person pretending to be a friend. Their goal is to scam you. If you get a distressed message supposedly from a friend, call them directly rather than responding through social media. If someone suddenly begins berating or attacking you, immediately report them here.


Remember What Social Media Can’t Do


Just as it’s great to know what social media can do for you, it’s vitally important to understand what it can’t do. If you have an emergency of any kind, don’t rely on social media for help – for instance, you can’t call emergency services on social media. For that, you need to get in touch directly, such as by calling 911 or pressing the button on a medical alert wireless system. While you can certainly interact a bit with your local emergency services on social media, they can’t respond to calls for help through the platform.


If you want to get on social media but you’re not sure which platform might suit you best or even where to begin, talk to a trusted and internet-savvy friend, family member, or caregiver. Though social media might seem a bit alien at first, once you get the hang of it, you can use it to enhance your life and relationships.