While it’s not surprising to see millennials and Gen-Xers fixated on a computer screen, statistics of seniors 65 and older adopting the digital age could be the most telling numbers of all.

Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank, has been tracking the connectivity of seniors for years now and popularity continues to surge. A survey conducted in 2016 found that 42 percent of adults 65 and older owned smartphones, 67 percent of seniors utilize the internet and 50 percent of this age group has in-home broadband.

While one could argue that there is no replacement for face-to-face social engagement, for homebound seniors or socially disconnected seniors, the internet opens up a world of possibilities. Travelogues and Google Earth allow seniors to virtually explore their world or relive travel memories. Cooking demonstrations walk single seniors through food-preparation-for-one meals and provide some freshness to what can be a lonely prospect. Forums for specialized hobbies like purse making, knitting, wood carving and even the use of drones for photography allow seniors to engage with like-minded individuals who might even be of varying ages and can provide support beyond the hobby that connected them in the first place.

Seniors are learning that digital technology can keep them connected to out-of-state relatives and friends through applications like FaceTime and Skype. A two-year study conducted out of Italy and the United Kingdom found that older citizens, when given the resources to use a computer and navigate the internet, had improved cognitive function and overall personal wellbeing. This study, conducted in part by Ages 2.0 out of the U.K. sited specific instances where one participant Skyped a homebound friend while she was on holiday with a group of mutual friends and the homebound friend was able to virtually join them around their campfire.

Closer to home, digitally-challenged seniors can receive help in the community with connectivity learning.

“We certainly answer questions about social media from patrons of all ages here at the library and we can help people get set up on social media accounts,” said Kim McNally, librarian and building manager at the Battle Ground Library. 

According to McNally, local branch librarians offer one-on-one appointments that assist seniors with setting up social media, email, and even accessing e-books, downloading apps and primers for mobile devices.

A fun offering at the library is their “Appy Hour” which is hosted a few times a year and aimed to help patrons of all ages with e-devices, e-books, and applications. Some area libraries also offer a Mobile Devices Lab a couple times a month and a Tech Help Open Lab.

Another great local source is AARP. They offer classes on how to maximize the internet for such things as video chats, social media, photo and video sharing and even creating a personal blog for family and friends to keep up on adventures, personal thoughts or a memoir.

Although much buy-in has occurred with the 65-and-over crowd, statistics prove that digital inclusion is as age and economically based as any other social facet. The Pew study found that 17 percent of seniors aged 80 and over own a smartphone, 44 percent of seniors in the same age group use the internet in comparison to 82 percent in the 65 to 69 age range and a scant 28 percent have a home broadband service. 

Finances are another driving factor with 87 percent of seniors reporting a yearly household income of $75,000 or more subscribing to home broadband versus 27 percent at the annual household income level of below $30,000.

“I think social media can be a welcome resource for seniors, especially those who live far away from their families or are looking for a way to connect with others,” McNally said. “I am always mindful that internet access is still a premium for some people so not everyone may have access to it. The nice thing is that everyone has access to the internet at the library.”

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This article was originally published at http://bit.ly/2FV2OZ2