Is the Internet Isolating the Elderly?

Seniors and Technology

Online Business is Convenient but not Senior-Friendly

In the United Kingdom, e-commerce, online bill pay, and social networking are something of a revolution. In fact, some government officials predict that nearly all business will be conducted online in a little over a decade. This is good news for lots of people and companies, which will save time, money, and energy accomplishing tasks online instead of traveling to physical locations. But it’s bad news for others, namely seniors who have spent their entire lives interacting with other people face to face. Advocates for the elderly warn that an Internet-focused society will leave seniors dangerously lonely.

It’s Hard to Change Old Habits

To be precise, the biggest concern for seniors is not necessarily that it’s too hard for them to learn how to use Facebook, Skype, and other online communication tools. Rather, it’s that moving business and socialization from physical venues to a computer screen destroys critical elements of human interaction. In Great Britain, a recent report claims that over five million seniors barely speak to another person for weeks at a time, a statistic that will continue to rise as people type more emails and make fewer phone calls or home visits.

The Flip Side

Clearly, the Internet is also making some parts of seniors’ lives better. Buying items online allows many elderly people to have them delivered when they are unable to get out to purchase them. Video chat provides a way to communicate with family members who live a long distance away. Facebook and Flickr take the photo album to an unbelievable new level, and seniors who learn to surf the Web competently have a limitless source of entertainment, knowledge, and nostalgia. But no matter how many benefits the computer offers, it will never be able to replicate the experience of talking face to face and sharing human contact.

Using the Internet Responsibly

We need to be helping our seniors learn how to use technology, but at the same time we need to keep ourselves aware of the communication and social needs of our elderly loved ones. A couple of hours spent over coffee and cookies is infinitely more enjoyable for a senior than an email inquiring after her health! If your schedule allows, it is also a great idea to make time to visit extended family members, church acquaintances, and neighbors who might also be sorely missing human company.

Loneliness might not immediately come to mind as one of the major problems facing your senior family member, but it deserves your attention. Consider asking others to stop in frequently for a visit, and perhaps engage a professional caregiving service to provide much-needed companionship. Just like so many other tasks, the Internet makes that more convenient than ever before!

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Photo by xavi talleda

Originally posted 2014-08-12 10:30:26.

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About Tim Colling

Tim Colling is the founder and President of A Servant's Heart In-Home Care, which provided in-home caregiving services in San Diego County, and also of A Servant's Heart Geriatric Care Management, which provided
professional geriatric care management services and long term care placement services in San Diego County. Tim has more than 30 years of experience in management in a variety of industries. He held a Certified Care Manager credential from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers. Tim is also a Certified Public Accountant (retired), and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from California State University at San Diego. In addition to writing blog posts here for the Servant’s Heart blog, Tim also is a regular contributor to HealthLine.com and to FamilyAffaires.com as well as blogs of other eldercare services provider companies. Finally, Tim is also the president of A Servant's Heart Web Design and Marketing, which provides home care marketing as well as website design and online marketing for those who serve the elderly and their families.