December 18th, 2010 at 3:11 am
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The Area Agencies on Aging Wants to Help Older Adults Connect Through Technology

by Carol Bursack

The old adage, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” seems to be coming alive in senior communities. When it comes to the social networking craze which has taken over younger demographics, seniors have decided not to be left behind.

In a press release I received by e-mail this week, Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is quoted as saying, “In every senior center I visit, the staff and elders proudly show me two things: their computer lab and their workout room. Both are encouraging signs of active aging. Today’s technologies have a lot to offer older adults, if they understand how to use the tools in safe and smart ways.”

To help this effort along, The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging is launching a campaign to help older people learn how to use social tools like Facebook, Skype (for phone and video contact with friends and family) and texting on cell phones.

While some folks in their eighties are already using Facebook and loving it, many elders don’t want anything to do with this type of networking, or even with e-mail. However, many “younger elders” are learning to use these tools so they can keep in touch with friends and families.

With mounting evidence pointing to the “use it or lose it” factor when it comes to keeping our brains sharp, many seniors, who at one time would have relied on newspaper crossword puzzles, are playing computer games in an effort to challenge their brains.

Now, learning to use social networking tools and then making use of this knowledge by connecting socially with others online is proving popular. Still, many seniors are reluctant. This is where the brochure on social networking, “Staying Connected: Technology Options for Older Adults” can come into play.

Staying Connected: Technology Options for Older Adults guides users through the basic facts on how to use tools like Facebook, email and cell phone texting, along with information on privacy and safety. The guide includes information about YouTube, Twitter, Skype, Instant Messaging and blogging which are all tools that older adults can use to stay connected with family and friends.

While “staying modern” isn’t a guarantee that we will stay younger, socialization is an important part of staying healthy. If some of that socialization is done through the use of modern technology, that’s likely good. Face to face socialization is vital, however, so this need shouldn’t be lost in the drive to get everyone “online.”

I do expect that modern assisted living centers and nursing homes will need to provide more ways to accommodate this “new generation” of seniors who will one day be their clients or residents. Social networking is here to stay, in one form or another. It’s nice to have this reliable guide to help people along the path. Seniors who want to be involved online, but need guidance, can get this new booklet from the Area Agencies on Aging. To view the technology guide, visit www.n4a.org. To learn more you can visit www.eldercare.gov or call (800) 677-1116.

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