“My biggest fear is being alone and having no one to care about me.”
My grandmother is 87. She lives with my cousins on the second floor of their house in Brooklyn. My youngest cousin frequently spends time with her between dinner and bedtime, but there are still too many hours each day she spends alone. My dad, who has become adept at using his iPad to connect with relatives in China, decided to give her his old iPhone for this purpose. He taught her how to use WeChat, a cross-platform instant messaging service, and she was blown away. Previously, she had a flip phone that required complicated phone cards to chat with loved ones back home, but now WeChat has become her prime source of communication.
According to the Pew Research Center, Internet use among those 65 and older grew 150 percent between 2009 and 2011, the largest growth in any demographic group. Furthermore, their 2012 study showed that of those who go online, 71 percent do so daily and 34 percent utilize social media. Technological advancement has provided immense benefits to mature adults, especially those with limited mobility, especially with regards to reducing isolation, loneliness, and other depressive symptoms. The Health and Retirement Survey found “a positive contribution of Internet use to mental well-being of retired older adults in the United States, where Internet use reduced the probability of a depression state by one third.”
Here are some popular apps that can help you connect with friends and family around the globe:
- Facebook: More than half of the U.S. adults 65+ that are online are now using Facebook. It is a great way to stay connected with loved ones through messaging and picture sharing.
- Skype: Skyping can bring relatives from around the world right to your living room. It is easy to use and versatile, applicable to mobile phones tablets, and laptops.
- WeChat and WhatsApp: These are mobile apps that allow users to contact loved ones for free, no matter where in the world they are. All that is needed in internet connection.
If you need help getting started, look into an organization called OATS (Older Adult Technology Services), which offers technological education to mature adults. If you are struggling with loneliness or isolation, this could be the solution you are looking for.
What technologies do you use to stay connected with loved ones? What apps would you recommend to our community members? Share your thoughts!