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How technology helps to keep older relatives connected

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More and more older people are becoming increasingly familiar with digital devices, with today’s over-65s more than twice as likely to use a smartphone as in 2012.

While many will use their mobile phones to make simple calls and text messages, some have been embracing the wider range of facilities offered by new technology. It’s now extremely easy to make video calls to see friends and family far away, as well as to stay connected with past and present contacts through social media online.

The number of older people getting to grips with new devices and social media is constantly growing, as it’s currently estimated that around one in seven people over 65 in the UK use social media platforms like Facebook. Here we look at how the digital world can benefit members of the older generation, as well as a few helpful tips when it comes to staying safe on the web.

Getting a new device

This Christmas, our older relatives may receive new gadgets that can provide them with entertainment, facilitate their hobbies or help them stay better connected with loved ones. For some people, however, it may be difficult to understand exactly what certain devices may be capable of and how to use them effectively.

Whether you’re using a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone, different aspects of the equipment may be unfamiliar. For example, many handheld devices nowadays feature a touchscreen to easily interact with the display. However, larger computers may just have a standard screen for viewing, requiring a traditional keyboard and mouse to operate it instead.

Many modern devices will allow you to connect to the internet through Wi-Fi. This enables us to communicate with friends, relatives and others in the wider world in a variety of different ways. The best way to learn your way around a new device and how to navigate the world of social media is to dive right in and use it regularly to become more familiar with it.

What actually is social media?

People often use this term “social media” without really understanding what it might mean. By and large, social media refers to any method of communicating with friends, relatives or anyone else that involves going online. It refers to all the alternative methods of long-distance socialising, using the internet to go beyond standard phone calls and text messages.

One of the biggest advancements in technology over recent years has come in the form of instant video. Many video calls now work in much the same way as a typical phone call, but they use a small camera in the phone or tablet to send a video over the internet in real time. That way, callers can see each other while speaking.

This has become common amongst young families living away from parents and grandparents to make regular calls and not miss the kids growing up. Video calls also help to provide a sense of company for somebody living alone, so they can easily stay in touch and feel a bit less isolated.

Combatting isolation and promoting inclusion

It’s easy for younger family members to lose sight of how often older relatives may be on their own or without regular companionship. By using portable devices and social media to keep in touch, you can offer a lifeline to those who may be otherwise unable to go out and enjoy the company of others.

Social media doesn’t just provide us with greater options to speak with and leave messages for close ones. Certain platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow us to share our thoughts, ideas and life updates with as many people we choose. In some cases, it’s possible to only allow selected friends and family to see our updates, ensuring that precious moments, photographs and discussions remain private from our wider social circles if necessary.

At this point, it can be useful to assert the importance of online safety to our older relatives, especially when it comes to personal and confidential information. If someone isn’t particularly familiar with navigating the web, they may need a little extra support and some reminders of how to protect themselves from potential hidden dangers online.

For more insight into staying safe online, click here to see our previous article on web safety and security.