The rise of the ‘Silver surfer’

Reader's Digest Editors

The UK’s 65 plus age group is the fastest growing demographic within our population, and estimated to reach one on four people by 2040. So, statistically, the number of ‘Silver surfers’ simply has to rise.

ONS statistics also show that almost 25% of adults aged 65 plus now use social networking sites, but with a third of this age group living on their own, these sites are becoming increasingly crucial for the housebound elderly looking for ways to stay connected to society, which has a massive positive affect on feelings of isolation and depression in the elderly and their general wellbeing.

This same age group is the most likely to live apart from friends and family and often more susceptible to feeling isolated. A recent study by Age UK revealed that as many as 1.2 million elderly people in England experience chronic loneliness.

Social media such as Facebook and Skype go a long way to tackling this issue by offering instant interaction with loved ones at the click of mouse. Skype can bring grandchildren who live on the other side of the planet virtually into their front room and into their lives.

Quite naturally, though, this age group is hampered by ill health, with up to 60% of them suffering long-term conditions, so discovering ways to remain in good health for as long as possible is a high priority.  Technology has the capacity to do just this.

How the internet can aid the elderly

Today, digital devices are helping prevent the development of disease in the elderly. And often in a surprising manner. Take the hearing aid as an example, research suggests that the devices used to treat the loss of hearing are also helping the onset of dementia.

Fitness trackers such as Fitbit, are helping monitor individuals’ activity levels and spurring them on to adopt more active and healthier lifestyles, which is having a positive effect on illnesses such as hypertension.

Devices such as the Amazon Echo, are giving back valuable independence to those suffering from the loss of mobility. Which, when taken away, can leave one feeling worthless, humiliated and vulnerable.

This artificial intelligence assistant allows the elderly to carry out numerous tasks through voice control e.g. lighting, heating, and a swathe of appliances. Thereby enabling users not to rely on others for the smallest of tasks and giving back priceless independence and pride.

These devices have also been proven to help overcome memory issues—a leading causes of independence loss in old age.

Conquering the unknown

There are many over 65 year olds, of course, that do struggle with the technology, but there is help out there. The biggest barrier is, not surprisingly, the unknown, but with a short introduction, as that offered by charities such as Age UK who run computer training courses for the elderly, they become keen digital users with the time on their hands to surf the internet at their leisure.

Helping novices further is the evolution of the search engine, namely Google, whose algorithms actively reward websites that deliver relevant information i.e. they serve up just what the user is looking for. Digital companies, today, act as internet ambassadors by supplying quality, international SEO optimised content, which ultimately helps the end user, which in turn, brings confidence and satisfaction.