Did you know Sype, the world’s most popular video chat app has 300 million registered users?! Although most users are millennials (the digitally-literate 18-24 year-olds), older adults are beginning to make their mark. Some studies show that 25% of U.S. grandparents communicate with their grandchildren in some form of electronic communication (email, video chat, text, etc.).
I began thinking about this after a Skype session with my own aging parents. We recently added a member to our family and unable to fly-in to visit in person, Skype offered us a way to introduce our new baby to my parents, digitally. It was only the second time my parents and I have Skyped. The first a disaster due to a slow internet connection, but luckily, this time the internet was at high-speed and we had very few cut-outs in connection. I called my mom before we want to Skyped. It’s a bit of a deal for them, they need to be walked through exactly how to get onto Skype, what to click on, how to adjust their laptop camera. Something that seems rather easy for me is completely foreign to my parents, now in their 60s.
I’m sure a lot of seniors are in the same boat - their loved ones have moved out arms reach and sometimes you just need a face-to-face chat. Some researchers suggest that digital advances like Skype’s video chat can help combat loneliness for seniors - a leading cause of depression and and mental illness for older adultsthat can lead to early death. But seniors are struggling to keep up with digital advances. Face-to-face chats and even phone calls are quickly becoming obsolete as millennials grasp onto fast, quick, digital communication forms. Heck, even emails are old-school these days.
Socialization is only the beginning in the benefits of video chat for seniors. Skype-like services could help health care professionals in communicating with clients, even conducting virtual doctor visits for seniors who are unable to leave their homes due to chronic health conditions. If, that is, these seniors are willing and able to use these digital processes.
Cyber-Seniors, is a documentary showing high school students teaching seniors how to use basic digital applications like Facebook, YouTube and Skype. Take a look at the trailer here. It’s a must-watch, warm-fuzzy video and a very hopeful view that seniors are in fact interested and willing to learn new things. They want to connect, we just need to show them how.