Social media can provide a valuable support network for older adults, helping them ward off loneliness, stay in touch with friends and family, and meet like-minded people.
However, it could also have a more direct set of clinical applications, according to a new study from the University of Luxembourg’s INSIDE research unit.
The rise of the so-called “silver surfer” generation means that large numbers of older internet users are comfortable using iPads and other hand-held digital devices to access social networking sites, discussion boards, and online forums.
That fact could be used in practice to stage clinical interventions, study author Dr Anja Leist said.
Older patients could be directed to a website featuring information on pain management or content written by specialist hip and knee consultants on avoiding fractures, the study suggested.
Previous studies have shown that successful use of a computer or web-enabled device can increase older adults’ feelings of control and self-sufficiency, but the interactivity of social media could provide even greater benefits.
“Older adults can use social media to access health-related information and engage in patient-to-patient or patient-doctor conversations,” Dr Leist added.
“There are many online forums where people in difficult life situations, such as informal care-givers of a spouse with dementia or individuals with depression, can exchange thoughts as well as receive and provide social support.”