While it may be a surprise to some outside of the senior care industry (and even a few inside), seniors are incorporating technology and social media into their lifestyles. Some seniors hit the internet to keep up with their family members on social media, some older adults keep up with their fitness using yoga YouTube videos, and others are using the internet to check with with medical specialists via video conference. No matter the reason, one thing is clear – seniors are interested in technology and senior social media opportunities.
As clinicians in the senior care field scurry to implement senior-friendly technology and platforms, other industry professionals are wondering how to harness the excitement of senior social media and other online tools. How can professionals make senior technology and senior social media accessible to residents who come to communities with a variety of abilities and preferences? In order to give residents the chance to reap the rewards of online engagement, the online experience needs to be easy, accessible, and approachable.
Beyond the simple fact that learning a new skill empowers the learner, there are plenty of other reasons that seniors should get connected online. A recent study has shown that moderate internet use and connection led to decreased feelings of depression in seniors. Further, learning a new skill can slow down memory loss and other cognitive decline. Residents can use senior social media to feel connected to family members who live far away, and to even find old friends while they meet new neighbors down the hall.
Make It Easy
The first step in lowering the learning curve with senior technology and senior social media is to make it as easy as possible. For beginner or more experienced users, utilizing a community platform that serves as a starting point for online visitors can eliminate the distraction and frustration of opening multiple tabs. Instead, each resident could customize his or her own platform to include direct links to sites they love – email, YouTube, video calling, Instagram. The senior care community could also include its own announcements, menu, and activity calendar to the platform so that each resident could get the pertinent information about what is happening in their home.
Make It Accessible
The days of senior care communities featuring a dusty computer lab, with an old desktop and mousepad, are long gone. Residents and visiting family members expect WiFi access and a quick network, at minimum. Savvy senior care communities are realizing that the more accessible technology is, the more likely seniors will continue to use and experiment with it. Communities should consider having tablets or laptops available for check out, or even in each apartment.
Make It Approachable
Senior care communities should aim to make internet and senior social media use approachable and not threatening. The easiest way to accomplish this is to have hands on classes and presentations onsite at the community, led by an experienced IT professional who can give information in a friendly manner. Classes can be for beginners (how to set up your first email account) or for more advanced users (how to start your first blog), and should be held at least weekly. Residents should also have access to this onsite IT professional during hours throughout the week so that they can ask questions or follow up.
You can, in fact, teach seniors new tricks and Boomers are expecting more online access and experiences as they explore senior care communities. What barriers does your community currently have to making the online experience for your residents easy, accessible, and approachable?