How Older Americans Go High Tech to Battle Depression
Local seniors are proving it’s never too late to learn how to surf - surf the internet, that is. Studies reveal seniors who surf the internet can reduce depression by 20 percent! In fact, one in three seniors over the age of 77 is turning to the internet, mostly to create vital connections that can help them battle the blues as their family’s busy fall season kicks into high gear.
As the busy fall season kicks into high gear for families, older loved ones can feel cast aside, isolated and alone. Grandkids are busy with classes and activities, while parents balance work and family life. So in all the hustle and bustle, who’s staying in touch with Grandma and Grandpa - especially if they don’t live close by?
That’s why Visiting Angels, one of the nation’s largest in-home senior care companies with an office in our area, has started a “Silver Surfers” program – helping seniors learn to surf the net. Caregiving Angels and a Social Media Maven go into seniors’ homes to teach tech – everything from text messaging and Skype to Facebook and the Internet. Seniors earn a “Silver Surfers” certification when they crush a wave of new technology, giving them a sense of accomplishment. The program is part of Visiting Angels’ larger Social Care Program - a care plan for different life stages that helps seniors socially connect and engage, cope with loss, understand life changes and prevent social isolation.
Social Care: “Silver Surfers”
Why Grandma 2.0 Likes It!
Skype played a vital role in 72-year-old Kathryn’s life when she moved to Florida, leaving her son behind in Washington. Kathryn’s Visiting Angels caregiver helped her move cross-country, taught her how to Skype and helped her create a Facebook page – just in time for the birth of her new granddaughter, Kate, in Washington! Kathryn stays in touch with her son and is involved in her new granddaughter’s life through Skype and Facebook. Not only is Kathryn a proud grandmother, but she’s proud of her “Silver Surfers” certification!
“Because of this program, I was able to experience two of the greatest joys in life – becoming a grandmother and seeing my son become a new father,” says Kathryn. “Skyping and Facebooking with my son and his family are now a normal part of my life. It helps me feel like I’m still an important part of their lives even though I’m miles and miles away.”
Log On to Battle Depression
The Visiting Angels Social Care: “Silver Surfers” program also helps older Americans battle depression. One fourth of all seniors over the age of 65 suffer from depression.
Recent studies about senior citizen's internet usage and depression:
- Seniors who surf the internet can reduce depression by 20 percent.*
- A University of Arizona study finds seniors who use Facebook showed a 25 percent improvement in mental “updating” skills - essentially improving their working memory.
- Another study shows seniors who visit social networking sites like Facebook have a positive emotional experience when measured by breathing rates, brain stimulation and pupil dilation.**
“With our Social Care Program we identify all the stages of life so we can care for seniors in a holistic way – care for their mind, body and spirit. These social connections play an important role in helping seniors heal from loss, validate the merit in their lives, and allow them to live comfortably in their own homes,” says Visiting Angels CEO Larry Meigs. “We started Social Care: Silver Surfers as part of the program because we discovered when seniors reach out to family and friends with a text or through Facebook, they make immediate connections. This makes them feel in touch with their loved ones and less isolated. They often want to write a letter, but good luck getting the grandkids to write back. Send a text though, and those grandkids will respond right away. They’re learning new technology and that stimulates their brains and keeps them thinking. They crave learning, and now we’ve brought the classroom right into their homes.”
Visiting Angels Social Care: Silver Surfers Program
Angels teach seniors how to:
- Use a cell phone, text and send e-mail
- Skype or use Face Time
- Create a Facebook page/account and interact with family and friends
- Log in, shop online or research information on a search engine
Other Visiting Angels services include helping seniors with light house work, medication reminders, bathing, cooking, transportation and socialization.
We’re happy to set up interviews with local caregivers/senior care experts and possibly seniors who have received their Silver Surfers certificate. This story could be a nice tie-in to October’s National Depression Awareness Month. Or, hold it for the holidays as many seniors are learning to shop online for the very first time!
*Washington, D.C. based Phoenix Center
** journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
Senior Citizen Internet Usage Statistics
- Nearly 54 percent of seniors over the age of 65 are using the internet
- 1 in 3 seniors over the age of 77 are turning to the internet to stay connected
- 1 in 3 online seniors use social networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn
- Nearly 9 in 10 online seniors use email
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Written by Stacey Hilton and Matt DeMargel of Visitingangels.com