Celebrating our social seniors

It is not just the younger generation who are immersed in the digital revolution and social media. As part of our technology in care homes month, we celebrate the rise of our social seniors and the ‘tech-savvy’ residents living in our care homes.

At Sanctuary Care, we actively support our residents to use technology in their care homes, most of which have Wi-Fi, supporting the rise of our social seniors.

Social media for older adults staying connected

At the age of 83 resident Jean Edwards is one of our extremely confident social seniors, having used Facebook for over a decade she says she would be “lost without it” because it is a vital way for her to stay connected.

Jean, who lives at Lake View Residential Care Home, a care home in Telford, said: “I use Facebook to keep in touch with family, to see their photographs and share family information. It is important to help me stay in touch with people and you can get information so quickly.”

Jean joked that she also likes Facebook because she likes “gossip” and is “nosey”!

“I would feel really out of it if I didn’t have Facebook,” she added. “I wouldn’t always know what was going on.”

Although she appreciates some people her age are not as comfortable using modern technology, Jean feels there are so many benefits of social media for older adults once you’ve got the basics.

Jean currently has around 20 Facebook friends, including other social media savvy seniors her own age and said: “People can find it intimidating but I would encourage them to use it.” Jean champions the use of social media for older adults and said she would happily teach her fellow care home residents how to use Facebook.

Seniors get social - making new friends

June Davenport, another Lake View resident, first used a computer when her late husband bought her one as he could not find a typewriter for her creative writing class.

June attended a class to learn the basics and shortly after, her daughter set her up an email account. She has never looked back and is thinks more people should become elderly internet users. Proud to be one of our social seniors, June has sparked a new friendship via email with a fellow care home resident who lives all the way in Australia at Ozcare’s Burleigh Heads Aged Care Facility.

Jean Edwards sitting in front of her laptop

The friendship started when Lake View staff reached out to care organisations across the world to see if they had any residents who would like to be pen/email friends with residents at the care home.

June said: “When I was asked if I would be interested in having a penfriend in Australia, I couldn’t believe my ears (I am a bit deaf)!  After a couple of weeks, I received a delightful reply with photos from a lady called Jill. Not bad when we are both in our eighties, she is 80 and me, well I am 86!”

Jill, who handwrites her letters to be scanned and sent is in total admiration of how tech-savvy June is: “June is one to admire with the way she is so independent and embracing the technology of today,” she said.

Keeping the family informed with WhatsApp updates

89-year-old Olly is a resident at Brambles Residential Care Home, a care home in Redditch, and is the patriarch of her large family. Originally living in Scarborough, Olly moved to Brambles to be closer to her youngest son, James - but what she didn't know is that it would actually bring her closer to family further afield, thanks to social media and smartphone apps.

Living in Redditch, James and his family visit regularly but to keep in touch with relatives further afield, a WhatsApp group was set up entitled 'Granny Updates'. The group was a way for the family to post how Olly is and to pass on messages, as well as sending photos. Olly has also shared a selfie or two thanks to the Wi-Fi at the care home.

Granddaughter Sophie Middleton explains: "It sounds a simple thing to do, setting up a group on WhatsApp but it is so much more than that, it keeps the family closer together - it is a two-way thing. Family who can’t just pop into the care home can see how she is in herself, while also sharing happy news - plus Granny is seeing more photos than ever before as it’s instant. The notifications really brighten up her day."

Elderly internet users taking part in online mass

At Brambles our residents highlight how we make use of technology in care homes, taking part in online mass. Using the home’s computer, the residents have just started to enjoy online mass every Sunday with a church in Merseyside from the comfort of their home. The services are captivating and even the residents who are not Catholics love to take part.

Resident Anna Vasic, who is 87 years old and went to a Catholic church in her home country of Italy, said of the services: “It is so lovely because for a long time I haven’t seen someone preach and I am very much looking forward to the next one.

The home’s activities leader Fiona Morsy said: “The residents just love it and talk about it all week. They sit there so silently and are fascinated by it.”

In a 2018 study, Age UK stated that digital inclusion and the use of social media for older adults can arguably alleviate loneliness and social isolation, and can also lead to increased self-esteem and feelings of independence and control over one’s life.

Another proposed benefit of internet use, the most common type of online communication being sending/receiving email (54% of usage in those over 75), is improved mental health, specifically impacting depression and anxiety.

Call to action content