Staying in touch with loved ones is incredibly important for older adults. But for many seniors, staying socially connected is tough. As people get older, their social groups tend to dwindle — friends and family members move, get sick, or just drift away from their old social group. At the same time, many older adults have an increasingly difficult time getting out of the house and staying active. As a result, it's common for people to get lonelier as they get older.
Loneliness is bad news, both for a person's physical and mental health. Humans are social creatures, after all — we're designed to connect with others. Seniors who don't get the social interaction they need are at higher risk for developing depression. They're also more likely to experience high blood pressure, memory loss, and cognitive decline.
Seniors who do stay connected, on the other hand, have a better chance of avoiding all these problems. They're also more likely to stay independent and physically fit. And with all the technology available to us today, staying in touch with loved ones is easier than ever. Here are five simple ways seniors can stay connected with friends and family, no matter how near or far away they live.
1. Pick up the phone.
When it comes to staying in touch, there aren't many things that can beat a good old-fashioned phone call. And while phone calls aren't the most technologically sophisticated option on this list, they do offer one major benefit: phone conversations are simple and intuitive, even for people who are intimidated by (or don't want to learn about) new technology.
For seniors who are interested in trying out newer technology, the options get even more interesting. Video calling tools like Skype and FaceTime provide all the functionality of a phone call, with the added benefit of being able to see the other person. It's the next best thing to having a face-to-face chat. For seniors with family living far away, video calls can be a wonderful way to stay connected with grandchildren as they grow up.
For seniors with cell phones, texting is a quick way to say hello or check in with a friend. Texting is quicker and easier than making a phone call, and it's a low-pressure way to maintain a connection with somebody. If vision problems present an issue, there are plenty of cell phones on the market today with large, easy-to-read displays and keypads.
2. Use social media.
Social media isn't just for kids anymore. People of all ages are flocking to social media platforms like Facebook and Pinterest, and seniors are leading the way. One out of three older adults already uses Facebook, and seniors are the fastest-growing demographic there.
It's easy to see why social media is becoming increasingly popular among older adults. It's an easy, natural way to stay connected with family members and friends. Through platforms like Facebook, people can share funny videos with their friends, look at their kids' photos, and see what their grandkids are up to, all in one place.
Which social media platform is best for seniors? Facebook is always a good choice — almost eight out of ten U.S. adults are on Facebook, so most people will be able to find their friends and family members easily. Facebook is also simple to learn to use. For those who enjoy doing crafts or cooking, Pinterest can also be a fun choice.
3. Give blogging a try.
For older adults who like using the internet, blogging can be a fun and offbeat way to stay in touch with loved ones. There are lots of different ways to blog. People can keep an online journal about their everyday activities, post photos they took, or even share their essays or poetry. For older adults with a creative bent, the sky is the limit with blogging.
There are a number of easy-to-use blogging platforms to choose from. WordPress and Blogspot are two of the most popular ones (and they're free). Tech-savvy adults will probably be able to set up a blog by themselves, while those who are less familiar with the internet might need to enlist the help of a child, grandchild, or professional home caregiver.
4. Plan regular visits.
Technology has given us lots of ways to stay in touch with loved ones, but sometimes, there's nothing like a face-to-face visit. Visits might not be a practical option for everybody, but they're well worth the effort whenever possible. Visiting in person is a great way for seniors to maintain relationships with loved ones while getting out of the house and staying active.
Of course, it's easiest for people to plan visits when they live near friends and family members. One of the best ways to stay in touch is to make a standing date for meet-ups. For instance, seniors might enjoy doing any of the following on a weekly or monthly basis with their friends or family:
Playing card games or board games
Visiting a favorite restaurant
Trying new restaurants
Going for a walk or bike ride
Chatting over coffee or tea
Visiting a park
Getting together for a home-cooked meal or barbecue
For seniors who don't live near family or friends, visits can be more challenging, but they're still possible. Someone in this situation could invite their grandchildren to come stay with them for a week or two during summer break, for example. And, of course, the holidays are always a good reason to get together with loved ones.
5. Enlist the help of a professional home caregiver.
For seniors who might have trouble staying connected with loved ones on their own, home caregiving can be a big help. Besides being a valuable source of social interaction themselves, home caregivers can help seniors plan social outings and organize family get-togethers. A home caregiving professional can also help to set up social media accounts or technology like Skype that seniors might not know how to use on their own.
For older adults, talking with loved ones regularly is critical for well-being. Staying socially connected has a protective effect against all kinds of physical and mental health problems. These tips will help the senior in your life keep in touch with their friends and family — and stay happy, healthy, and independent as a result.