According to the Government of Canada, “Canadians aged 65 and older represent the fastest growing group of Internet users. Furthermore, among senior Internet users, approximately 70% go online every day”. There are many positives to the growing internet presence of this cohort.The internet is an excellent way for older generations to stay connected to family and friends and reduce feelings of isolation. Tools like Facetime, iMessage/texting, email, and social media apps such as Facebook can give seniors meaningful connections to loved ones on a daily basis. Chatting, staying updated on family events and activities, and sharing photos and videos bring a feeling of closeness made possible by digital advances.
These advances are especially beneficial to people who may not be able to leave their homes due to mobility issues, or many have family members who live too far away to see in person. While these tools have numerous benefits, there are online safety concerns to be taken into consideration.
Not everyone on the internet is a true friend, and there are those who have sinister intentions. When it comes to email, advise seniors to delete anything that looks out of the ordinary. If someone is genuinely trying to get a hold of your loved one, and their message is deleted, they will reach out again. Phoning the sender of the message to confirm that it did in fact come from them is another useful strategy.
When it comes to Facebook and other social media platforms, seniors, and all of us for that matter, should only accept friend requests from those they know, and who seem legitimate and trustworthy. There are those who will create fake accounts and reach out to people, trying to scam them or get their personal information. Being diligent with social accounts can help safeguard one's personal information. Help your parent or loved one modify their security settings so they are better protected online.
Strong passwords are extremely helpful when it comes to keeping accounts secure. Use long and complex passwords that do not contain any known words or phrases in order to best safeguard email and social media accounts. Watch this short video for full details on password security. Offer to help your loved one with this process.
Helping seniors stay safe on the internet preserves their security, autonomy, and confidence online. This is priceless, whether they are living at home or in a retirement community. Social media, when used safely, can be a continued source of joy for your aging loved one.