We know that our senior loved ones can enjoy great benefits by getting more connected with technology. Many have done exactly that and started using the internet and modern tech devices to search for information, connect with others, get coupons, see family photos, travel, volunteer, offer help in specific communities, and stay engaged by socializing.
Family caregivers like to see their seniors get connected, as many boomers have done already. They realize that their loved ones can reduce their isolation, improve their mental fitness and with any luck avoid depression by interacting online
There are advantages of getting more involved with family and friends who may be far away. By creating a peer network online through social media, seniors can uplift themselves. Learning new stuff, connecting with the community, even taking part in the senior center through the net can bring joy to their daily life.
It is important to know how boomers currently interact on the web so that family caregivers can help get their own senior started.
Boomers Going Online
Many people think technology adoption is mostly for the younger crowd. In 2013, a poll (Fifty Plus Booms Online) done by McAfee security, of current internet users, found that people over 50 were spending around five hours and forty two minutes every day on the net.
Astonishingly, those aged between 62-75 spent four hours and thirty six minutes online. Surely, it’s not only for the young!
From another study conducted by Ipsos and Google in 2013, it was found that seniors over 65 spent just 30 more minutes watching tv than on the internet. Boomers actually were on the web more than in front of the TV set.
So, what do they do when they are online?
- Online banking: 8 in 10 seniors accessed their bank account, 75% paid bills online
- Shopping: 9 in 10 purchased something online, to the tune of $7 billion
- Couponing: Groupon was used by 35% of those 55+, compared to 43% of 35-54 year olds as of October 2014, 40% search online for coupons
- Information: 2/3 of seniors used the internet for news and weather.
- Twitter: 1 in 5 twitter users are more than 50
- Social media: 1 in 3 seniors online use social media
- Facebook: 49% of seniors online have a Facebook account
- Travel: Seniors cover 70% of online spending for luxury travel, 8 in 10 older users plan and book travel online
- Accessing health information
- Watching TV and videos
- Video chat with Skype or FaceTime
- Writing blogs or books
The boomers said that they experienced increased comfort as they did these activities online. It is good to know because many older adults are concerned about security.
As more and more boomers (45-64) and seniors (65+) access the web for various reasons, security becomes a major concern especially for their family caregivers.
What do they do online?
Who are they connecting with?
Are they giving out money or private information?
Are they sharing too much?
Facebook, like the young generation of today, is the most preferred social media for seniors. Unfortunately, there are many fake people creating accounts on this platform. The seniors looking to make connections, might tend to overshare which could put them in danger for becoming victims.
The greatest concerns are identity theft and fraud, especially for the seniors who may be unconsciously over sharing their personal information online on a daily basis.
In a survey, two out of three seniors admitted that they shared their contact information on social media. A third said they had no problem sharing personal photos or information, including information about their close family members.
Moreover, half of seniors used a dating site where they disclosed their personal information in detail.
Trust in the varies among seniors. They are unwilling to trust pharmaceutical companies about health information or drug information yet will share with WebMD for their medical information. If a prescription medication website is recommended by a doctor, 6 in 10 seniors will search it out.
How Seniors Access the Web
There are differences between older and younger net users, not with their activities and the significant benefits they gain from using the internet, but just with the devices used to access it.
Younger adults use mobile devices like smartphones and tablets more than seniors. Seniors in the poll said they mostly used a desktop computer or laptop.
Devices seniors over 50 were using:
1. 53% used a desktop
2. 35% used Laptops
3. 6% used tablets
4. 4% used smartphones
Tablets Versus Laptops
Many seniors who want to start using the internet or benefit more than they already have, Using a tablet can be a good way to influence internet use for senior who are new to getting online.
The barriers for many seniors to using a computer include vision, agility and overall comfort of use.
Tablets can help because they use large icons which are easier to navigate. Seniors can open apps by touching the screen.
It also can be confusing for some seniors to use a mouse, and frustrating to right click or double click.
Often a computer requires a number of steps to turn on, connect to the net, open files or apps and use. And one should consider the importance of portability. It is much easier to carry and hold a tablet than a laptop.
For many seniors it is a little easier to use a table with arthritic fingers or trembling hands than to use a smartphone or a computer mouse.
Family caregivers can help to select and install apps that a senior loved one may like as well and be able to show them how to use the apps and provide trouble shooting support. This can make the senior feel more comfortable using a tablet.
Seniors Need a Helping Hand
The definition of a boomer versus a senior is changing. Most boomers and seniors are active both mentally and physically, however, not all are. Family caregivers are helping those seniors who require more support to take advantage of technology and the internet. Each senior is a person with different talents and needs.
Many boomers are already using the internet, however many seniors are not and they need help to explore the digital world. Family caregivers have to set up the tech and show them how to use it.
We appreciate those boomers who use technology and make it a part of their daily life. However, we can’t ignore the many seniors who aren’t connected to technology yet but could be gaining benefits for their health and lifestyle as they try to live independently.
Family caregivers can play a great role to help them get there.