The Person Your Parents Aren’t Talking to Online

Tech-novice grandparents are taking over social media to communicate with friends and family. However, when it comes to talking with their doctors, their signal falls silent.
Seniors are missing out on online conversations with their doctors

Seniors are a steady growing demographic for technology usage, especially for the internet and social media. While many seniors are not as tech-savvy as younger generations, they are finding their way around a computer and online. According to a Pew Research Center report in June, usage of the internet by adults 65+ has increased by 44 percent from 2000 to 2015. Social networks will see a surge in their base of 65 and older uses by 2020. There’s an estimation of 55 million seniors to be online by 2020. Currently, seniors are showing a faster adoption rate for the internet, although young adults are still most likely to actually use the internet.

An April 2014 report from the Pew Research Center contends that even with the increase in adoption, seniors remain isolated from digital life. There are many benefits for seniors to be online. Majority of these benefits include communications, either with loved ones or friends. Some seniors are utilizing social media to connect with colleagues and friends. They are video chatting with family, cyber-visiting their loved ones. Some have even enrolled in online studies from a variety of Universities. The chief person being left out of online conversations with seniors are physicians.

Assisted Living Communities Teaching Technology Usage, Not Communication

Wishpond created an infographic based on information from various sources.
Wishpond created an infographic based on information from various sources.

Assisted living communities for seniors are including technology usage classes for desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones. While many seniors are not so quick to select a smart phone over a cellphone, they are getting the most usage of the internet via portable devices like laptops and tablets. Merrill Gardens, a Washington-based assisted living company, said, “Our community uses social media, not to just connect with our residents. We connect with the children of our residents through social media.” Merrill Gardens says that social media is a great way to keep the residents involved with activities in the community and to let children see the progression and interact. “Our Pinterest account allows seniors to express and share their creative works,” said a community representative. There was no comment on the communications between physicians and residents, out of concern of a possible Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) violation.

“The benefit of assisted living is that we are located on the campus…. It is easy for residents to come directly to us”

Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community, says that they have added technology classes for iPad usage. While they have more advanced technical programs, such as videography and video editing, many residents shy away from computer-based training out of fear of “breaking the internet.” However, when it comes to communicating with their residents, the medical center relies mostly on telephone and face-to-face communications.”

“The benefit of assisted living is that we are located on the campus and are in walking/shuttle proximity of the residents. It is easy for residents to come directly to us,” said an Ashby Ponds Medical Center representative.