The past ten years has been dubbed by some as the decade of the silver surfers, as retirees have taken to the internet in record numbers. However, don’t be fooled into thinking they are simply using online tools to look up recipes, see what is on TV or maybe research some family history.
For those who love a label, the silver surfers are rapidly being replaced by Instagrans, with numbers of over 65s rising exponentially year on year. Data from Ofcom shows that around 50 percent of over 65s who use the internet have a social media account. And among over-75s, the percentage has doubled over the past two years.
Loneliness among seniors
Age UK estimates that 1.2 million senior citizens in the UK suffer from chronic loneliness. This is a problem that is only going to rise in step with the aging population – over the next 20 years, the number of over-85s is set to more than double.
Loneliness can be truly debilitating. Age UK’s Director told The Guardian that depression among seniors is often “brought on or exacerbated by loneliness.”
More than just keeping in touch
A simple phone call can make a dramatic difference to someone’s day when they are sitting alone with only the TV and radio for company. But who uses the telephone these days? Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat are the ways we keep in touch, and they offer so much more flexibility.
However, it is not just a case of grandparents being able to see recent family photos and keep up with what the younger generation are doing. One in five “instagrans” say they upload their own photos and video content to share with family and friends.
Social gaming on the rise
Social gaming has surged in popularity over recent years, and not just among those who grew up in the PlayStation generation. Games are a great way to keep the mind sharp, and most of us know older relatives who are fond of crosswords, word searches and so on. The online age provides a world of new opportunities.
Yes, there are popular games like Words with Friends, in which instagrans can show off their scrabble skills and maybe teach their children and grandchildren a thing or two. But sites like free-spins.org Ireland are also attracting a growing audience among seniors. Step into a casino in Las Vegas, and you will see that the majority of gamblers playing the slots are in the over-50s age group, and many are significantly older. It’s no surprise that this pattern is starting to emerge online, too.
The internet age provides some golden opportunities for those in their golden years to stay in touch with loved ones and stave off loneliness. It behoves us all to encourage older loved ones to explore the virtual world – but to do so with caution.
It is worth noting that almost 20 percent of older internet users admit they are “not at all confident” about managing personal data online. This is a topic that is covered extensively when discussing the safety of youngsters online. Perhaps we should remember that it is equally applicable to the instagran generation.