Loneliness is said to be one of the most common problems plaguing older people. Their world can shrink as their mobility declines, perhaps a spouse passing away leaves them anxious to go out alone or they can’t drive. Young family can live far away or be too busy to visit, as well as financial barriers to things like travel or community events.
But if they are still mentally well, a smartphone can help older people to stay connected much more easily in the modern online world.
Our friends at Olympic Stairlifts take a look at the elements of how a simple smart phone can open a whole world of support, contact and care for the new generation of seniors.
Without downloading any fancy apps or software, even the simplest of modern smartphones will come with capabilities that really aid communication between people who can’t physically be together. Messaging is a great way for grandparents to connect regularly with grandkids, in a way and at a time that is likely to get a response. Most phones will even allow for text size to be increased on screen to make readability easier.
Images can also be sent easily, as can short video clips, and its often free between phones who have wifi access either through the iPhone iMessage service or by using messaging apps like Whatsapp. Group chat functions can also make it really easy for all the family to join in one conversation together and with the ability to simply drop a quick hello or photo into the chat group, older people can feel that they are being thought of and contacted more often than waiting for a big visit in person.
Video calling is an even simpler method of communication than text messaging, which requires the same simple button function as making a regular telephone call. Video calls mean that families can set up a tablet on a stand for example, and allow an elderly person to join them at the dinner table or be present at birthday parties - the sort of thing that can make them feel more connected to their families and the outside world.
Apps such as Skype or WhatsApp can be used to reduce the cost of calling overseas in particular, making the only obstacle to keeping in touch is finding a way around the timezones!
As well as the wealth of step tracker and heart monitor apps available, a smartphone brings instant access to a mammoth library of free online videos through channels like YouTube where older people can watch exercise videos suitable for their mobility levels, such as gentle stretching or chair movements. These channels have comment functionalities which can help viewers feel part of a community or group of like-minded people.
Games on smartphones can also aid brain exercise such as memory games or puzzles like Tetris or Sudoku. These all boost our mental wellbeing and that is essential to keep confidence and motivation high to even want to go out in the first place.
Smartphones give older people the ability to enjoy everything the internet has to offer from libraries of factual material to entertainment like books, music and more. However there is also now a plethora of websites that have been created specifically for people to get together as a community, talk about their problems, share tips or stories and make virtual friends.
Gransnet is the senior equivalent of the hugely popular parenting forum Mumsnet where grandparents can congregate online. Other websites like Silver Surfers and Senior Chatters are solely for older people to chat and make new friends online. Global website like Meetup are also a great way for people to find existing networking groups to join in their local area, regardless of their interests or age.
Staying socially engaged is widely regarded by research to be as important to positive ageing as maintaining a healthy body. And while social media or the internet in general can seem daunting to a generation who didn’t grow up online, they can master it with the right support.
Facebook is particularly user-friendly and as well as allowing older people to see photos and message family members, there is also the interactive comment nature of news articles and local interest groups that can help them to feel they’re engaging in great conversation during the day even if they aren’t able to physically go outdoors.
This post was written by our friends at Olympic Stairlifts who are stairlift providers across all of UK and Ireland.