Social Savvy Seniors Have Higher Self-Esteem
(Senior Surf’s David Casuto and his students were interviewed from this article)
Older adults are not immune from the flood of technology in today’s world — and they’re eager to get onboard. A growing number of senior citizens, as well as tech entrepreneurs, are seeing technology as a tool to enrich their lives as they reach old age.
Technology plays an increasingly important role in helping older adults maintain and improve mental and emotional well-being. Associate Professor of Psychology T.J. McCallum, Ph.D., ofCase Western Reserve University, conducted a study examining technology and socialization among seniors. In a short, three-month study, he found that seniors who engaged with technology have higher self-esteem and greater social interaction compared with seniors who are not involved with technology.
David Casuto, founder of Senior Surf and a teacher in the program, tells Mashable the seniors in his program learn more than just the basics. His classes teach seniors about podcasting, Photoshop, video editing, how to create an RSS feed and more. He describes the class as “everything you wanted to know about computers but were afraid to ask your grandchildren.”
“The learning curve is very, very long,” Gordon said. Navigating the web and learning to organize photos on Picasa are the two most valuable skills Gordon said he’s learned in the classes.
McClune said the skills she’s learned in the class makes her more independent.
“I don’t have to call [my grandchildren] as often for advice,” she said. She enjoys using Facebook to find out what her family is doing.
Tomlinson said she used a computer at work for more than 20 years, but there was always an IT person to help if something went wrong. Enhancing her computer skills has helped her become more tech-savvy.
Gordon agreed, saying instead of calling an 800 number or going to the Apple Genius Bar when having a computer issue, he refers to the information he’s learned in the class.
Casuto said many seniors “don’t really crave as much as we do” when it comes to constantly being connected and learning every new technology. The seniors in his classes like to learn things such as Skype and email — anything that helps them connect to people they care about.
However, there are seniors who are cannot get Internet access because of poverty, geography, or lack of skills. Senior Surf began as a mobile computer training program 10 years ago to address this problem. It set up classes in retirement communities so people wouldn’t have to worry about leaving their own home. Seniors can also receive one-on-one lessons that will teach them how to use a computer or a particular application or program.
ConnectedLiving is another organization that helps seniors use the Internet. The company works with senior living communities as well as public and private housing authorities by going onsite and teaching people how to use computers. It provides a secure network for them to explore the web without pop-ups, plus easier navigation. ConnectedLiving uses text, color and graphics to create easily identifiable Internet pathways, making browsing more intuitive for seniors.
“Social engagement is especially important for seniors who depend on remote family members for support or who are going through life transitions such as the loss of a spouse or the need to move out of their house into an assisted living community,” Sarah Hoit, CEO of Connected Living, tells Mashable.
Hoit says we shouldn’t allow an entire generation to be absent from our online conversations. Not only for the sake of seniors themselves, but for society at large, which benefits from having seniors’ wisdom heard.
She listed some benefits social media can have for seniors:
- Increased socialization
- Decreased depression
- Opportunities for continued learning, education and brain health
- Passing on of wisdom for future generations.
- Sense of purpose, gaining of new skills