Does Your Senior Skype?

February 8, 2013

Do you have a senior family member or aging parent that spends a great deal of the day on the computer?  Are you concerned that so much time on the computer leads to social isolation for your senior?  Don’t be.  Some studies are indicating that social media and other computer sites allow seniors to engage with others — especially when mobility is a concern.   A certain amount of social media interaction can be a healthy component for seniors

Spending time online reduces depression by 20 percent for senior citizens, the Phoenix Center reports.

“Maintaining relationships with friends and family at a time in life when mobility becomes increasingly limited is challenging for the elderly,” says Phoenix Center visiting scholar and study co-author Dr. Sherry G. Ford, an associate professor of Communications Studies at University of Montevallo in Alabama. “Increased Internet access and use by senior citizens enables them to connect with sources of social support when face-to-face interaction becomes more difficult.”

The Policy Paper, Internet Use and Depression Among the Elderly, examines survey responses of 7,000 retired Americans 55 years or older.

The implications of the findings are significant because depression affects millions of Americans age 55 or older and costs the United States about $100 million annually in direct medical costs, suicide and mortality, and workplace costs. Further, with billions spent annually on depression-related health care costs, the potential economic savings also are impressive.

Technology is a great way to keep generations in touch.

If getting your family together is not feasible because of schedules or health issues, why not develop a plan to help your mom make regular contact with your family using technology? If your senior needs more training in some of these computer issues, perhaps she would like to take a class at a local high school or community college.

Then set up a regular schedule of emailing messages to your family. Services like Skype are available to families to hear and see one another, even from a distance. Affordable web cams could be a gift to your mom so that she watch her grandchildren or great-grandchildren playing a song on the piano or showing off their latest school project.

Senior social isolation may be prevented with regular social outings and social media visits

While the Internet could lift your mom’s spirits and help keep her in touch with family and friends living elsewhere, companions and friends whom she sees in person are vital for that personal touch.  Social media shouldn’t be a substitute for social interaction, but it can certainly play a role in enhancing the social lives of our seniors.


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