Humans are hardwired for connection. The quality of this connection impacts our physical and mental health. According to Mental Health America (MHA), research shows that social connection increases happiness, improves health, and lengthens life expectancy. Additionally, the National Institute on Aging (NIA), reports a positive correlation between social interaction and the general well-being of older adults in particular.
Simply put, we need each other — especially as we age.
Since it’s common for seniors to feel lonely and isolated, it’s essential to frequently stay in touch with loved ones. However, when friends and family live on the opposite side of town or the country, in-person quality time is difficult to come by. This article discusses how seniors can embrace technology to stay virtually connected with others.
10 Ways to Connect Through Technology
Here are some of the best social media, video platforms, and apps for seniors to stay virtually connected. Please note that getting familiar with new technology always has a learning curve and it may take a few days or weeks to get used to these options. If you get frustrated or confused with one of these platforms, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a tech-savvy friend or relative.
Seniors aged 65 and older are the fastest growing population on Facebook, Pew Research Center reports. From 2018 to 2019, Facebook users in this group increased by 11%, while millennial users only increased by 2%. Why are so many seniors on Facebook? Though seniors have a wide array of reasons for choosing Facebook, the main reason is its popularity. 69% of Americans are on Facebook, which makes sharing photos, videos, and updates with family easier than any other platform.
You can send friend requests to your children, grandchildren, cousins, second-cousins, high school classmates, and other friends you’d like to stay in touch with. All you have to do is find their profile and click “Add Friend.” You can also use Facebook to join groups or search for local events.
Nextdoor is a hyperlocal social media platform that brings neighborhoods and your local community together. When you join, you’re asked to verify your neighborhood, which connects to the local Nextdoor website so you can start connecting with your neighbors. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a Nextdoor website set up, you’re given the option to start one.
You can use Nextdoor to hear about neighborhood events, get local restaurant recommendations, ask to borrow a ladder, or organize a walking group. It’s a great way to exchange information and build connections with people in your neighborhood.
FaceTime is a video and audio chatting app available on iOS devices such as iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac. If you have an Apple iOS device, FaceTiming is about as easy as making a phone call. FaceTime is a great app for seniors. It’s a nice way to see friends and family who you can’t see in person — either for a quick morning greeting or to hear about your daughter’s first day at the new job.
You can also Group FaceTime. The most convenient way to do this is to start a group iMessage with the people you’d like to FaceTime. Then, tap on the contacts at the top of the message and click the “FaceTime” icon. Who would you want to Group FaceTime with?
4. Marco Polo
Marco Polo is a video messaging app that’s like a mixture of FaceTime and text messaging. It’s a great app for seniors because it enables you to send video messages and respond on your own time. This makes it easier to get face time with loved ones who have hectic work schedules or are generally busy — because they can respond at their leisure.
Do you have a friend or family member who never answers the phone or often forgets to call you back? Marco Polo could be a good way to connect with them.
Zoom is a versatile platform that allows users to host webinars, audio calls, video chats, and more. Once you have a Zoom account, you can use it on a web browser or download the mobile app to use on your smartphone.
Zoom is used by many businesses, but seniors can use its video chatting feature to stay virtually connected with loved ones. You can use Zoom to virtually do activities you’d like to do in person but can’t for whatever reason. For example, you can virtually eat dinner with your friends who live out of state or do chair yoga with your grandchild who’s away at college.
Skype is a computer application that supports video chats, voice calls, and instant messaging. Its functionality is similar to Zoom’s, but there are some key differences. For example, Skype supports calls with up to 50 participants, while Zoom supports 100. If you’re looking for an app that lets you video chat with good friends and family, either one will likely work. Explore both to see which is easier to use.
7. Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts is similar to Skype and Zoom. Its features include messaging, video calls, and audio calls. You can use Google Hangouts on your internet browser or download the mobile app to use on your smartphone. If you, or some of your loved ones, already have a Google account, this may be an easier video software to use.
8. Netflix Party
Wouldn’t it be fun to have a virtual movie night with a loved one who lives in a different state? Netflix Party is a web browser extension that allows you to do just that. The extension syncs the video you’re watching and opens a group chat so you can virtually watch with your family or friends. To use Netflix Party, however, you must have a Netflix account and be using a Chrome browser on a desktop or laptop computer.
What movie would you want to watch with your loved ones? A classic, action, drama, or newly released film? Whatever you choose, don’t forget to prepare your snacks; they’re still essential for virtual movie nights.
Readeo lets you have virtual story time with your grandchildren. The platform has more than 150 children’s books you can read over a video chat. This is a great way to stay virtually connected with your grandchildren who live far away, or, to connect more frequently with your grandkids who live nearby. This video shows what a Readeo “BookChat” experience is like.
Readeo offers two account options: guest and member. As a guest, you’re limited to the book of the month. As a member, you pay $9.99 per month for full library access and unlimited BookChats.
Instagram is a photo and video sharing social media platform that offers a fun way to keep up with loved ones. Similar to Facebook, you can request to “Follow” the profiles of friends and family members. Then, you’ll be able to see and comment on their posts. You can share your own photos and directly message people too.
Another way to connect with people through Instagram is to find new accounts to follow. In fact, this can be an especially fun app for seniors who enjoy photography. Based on your interests, you can follow accounts that post creative photos and videos about travel, dogs, food, and more.
Tips for Staying Virtually Connected
Hopefully you have some new ideas for virtually connecting with your loved ones using apps, social media, and other digital platforms. If you’re intimidated by the thought of learning a new tech skill, don’t worry. You’re capable, and your relationships will benefit from the new skills you’re about to learn.
Here are some tips as you start virtually connecting with friends and family:
- Tell your family members you’re trying new ways to stay virtually connected and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Think about who you’d like to regularly talk with and schedule a time to video chat each week.
- Use video platforms to schedule group activities — like a dinner, movie night, book club, etc. — with your friends and family.
- Use social media to directly connect with loved ones, and set time limits if it becomes too distracting.
- Encourage close friends to try these new ideas with you, and share your experiences as you use technology to stay connected with others.
Connect With a Community Near You
Senior Lifestyle is committed to helping seniors live vibrant lives. We offer diverse living options including Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, and Skilled Nursing. Find a Senior Lifestyle community near you, and reach out to schedule a virtual tour.