Most days, our lives are dominated by technology. We wake to smart phones, spend time on our laptops and tinker with tablets. We're online throughout the day and take it for granted. And as internet savvy as most of us are, our kids are even more so. They live and breathe the web since they've never known life without it. But for our parents and grandparents, the internet and our daily tech may seem foreign and intimidating.
A new documentary, Cyber-Seniors, explores this phenomena and shows how we can bridge the tech gap for our elders and greatly improve their quality of life as a result.
Origins of Cyber-Seniors
The idea for Cyber-Seniors the movie blossomed from a high school project where teens took their tech skills to a retirement home and showed seniors how to use the internet and helped them explore the cyber world.
Most were interested in Facebook and email, as these were programs they'd heard of, to get in touch with family and friends. Many also embraced Skype as a great way to see and chat with their busy loved ones. Others were able to rediscover their childhood homes on Google Earth.
But what's really interesting about Cyber-Seniors were those retirees that went above and beyond basic social sites, email and web browsing and delved into online gaming and YouTube.
The Elderly YouTube Challenge
Those seniors who got into YouTube even faced off in a challenge to see whose videos could earn the most views.
One of the most entertaining videos belongs to Shura, an 88 year old, who learned to play Minecraft with her mentor Max then made a video of them making Minecraft-inspired drinks.
While there has been growth in use of the internet among seniors age 65 and up, once they hit 75, the rate falls off again.
By encouraging your older loved ones to get and stay active online, you can help improve their mood, expand their social horizons and get them back into the habit of learning.
Benefits of Elderly Using Technology
- Allows them to stay in touch with family members who live a distance away
- Allows daily interaction with family who may be too busy to visit in person every day
- Encourages them to connect socially which can help seniors who feel isolated
- Can positively impact their quality of life by deepening and expanding their social network
- Staying up to date on news and world events gives them new things to discuss and explore
- Developing online interests and hobbies can give them tasks to look forward to
And the benefits go far beyond those related to social circles and quality of life.
A UCLA study of older Americans and the internet showed that even minimal amount of time spent online improved cognitive function. And a study by the Phoenix Center showed that internet usage in seniors reduced depression rates by 20%. Many libraries, senior centers and other community organizations offer free computer literacy courses. If you have a teen of your own, why not ask them to mentor their grandparent in Cyber-Senior style? It's a great way for them to spend time together and bond.
At Fred Lind Manor, we have a computer station with internet access for use anytime by our residents. And when looking to equip your parent, grandparent or other senior with a gadget for getting online, remember you don't have to invest big bucks to get a device that's capable of web browsing, using Facebook, Skype and YouTube.
Just make sure the screen is large enough for those with vision problems to see and be able to zoom in for comfortable viewing. A Chromebook, Netbook or tablet will work great and is an affordable solution to get your favorite senior online and web savvy in no time.