Social media isn’t just for the millennials. Granted, a hefty chunk of the 18-29 demographic uses a variety of social media apps – 83 percent are on Facebook, 44 percent on Instagram, 39 percent on Twitter, and 33 percent on Snapchat. However, polling data from 2017 suggests that four in 10 seniors (aged 65 and older) own a smartphone. Between 2009-2011, internet usage among elderly citizens skyrocketed 150 percent. Considering that the average U.S. American spends half of his day in front of a screen, social media use among seniors may put them at risk for health concerns associated with inactivity, such as stroke, obesity, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. So here are some tips for elderly adults on how to take a break from social media and fill your time with positive habits.
Not all apps are created equal. We often think of social media as an echo-chamber of tweets and likes and “Just made muffins!” posts. But there’s a whole sub-field of brain-training apps designed to improve your memory. Some even claim to add points to your IQ. Whether that’s true, it’s safe to say they consist of games that tap into your problem-solving skills, lengthen your attention span, and track your progress. Especially if you’re wheelchair-bound, or your mobility is limited, you may consider downloading these rather than drifting through the Twitterverse for hours at a time.
No matter how tech-savvy we get, humans will always be social creatures. Sure, plenty of us are introverts, but even if you like to be by yourself (which can also be healthy), we all need to feel loved, make friends, and double over in laughter. Some benefits of being around people you enjoy include better sleep, sharper focus, higher productivity, and a stronger resistance to colds. Not to mention a longer lifespan. So whether it’s with your friends or your family, be sure to stay social. Go golfing on Sundays, or have brunch with your kids. Babysit your grandchildren for a month in the summer. Many elderly people are retired, so it can be good to schedule a regular meetup with your people in lieu of having a work schedule to structure your days.
As people age, they confront mortality. Questions about time, the purpose of existence, and what happens after death seem more pertinent to those of us in their final seasons of life. That’s why many elderly people become interested in cultivating spiritual wellness. Some signs of spiritual wellness include compassion toward others, reflecting on one’s life, and knowing the difference between right and wrong. Spirituality doesn’t require you to attend a church, mosque, synagogue, or other house of worship. Feel free to do that, but also try to be mindful of the moment. Be aware of the leaves falling, the rasp of cicadas, the sound of car tires passing outside. You might find that the world in all its sound and splendor is much more beautiful than the pixelated blare of social media.
The last bit of advice for senior adults on social media is a word of caution that could apply to the rest of us, too: Get out there and exercise. Since 36.5 percent of the U.S. population is obese, we could all stand to incorporate more fitness in our lives. Don’t think of this as a chore you’ve got to get through. Instead, consider opting for light- to moderate-intensity exercises like yoga, walking, swimming, or group aerobics. Not only has exercise been shown to fight disease and strengthen joints and muscles, it can also brighten your worldview. That way, you can stay healthy into your twilight years, which many people find to be the most peaceful of all.
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