Older Adults, Social Technologies, and the Coronavirus Pandemic: Challenges, Strengths, and Strategies for Support
COVID-19 is a threat to everyone’s health but can be especially devastating to older individuals. To prevent spread of the virus, social distancing has become the norm worldwide. However, with social distancing comes significantly less face-to-face interaction, which may be particularly harmful to older adults given their existing levels of loneliness. While social technologies can be used to provide critical social interaction during this time of necessary physical distancing, older adults tend to either lack access to these technologies or the skills and experience necessary to use them effectively. Once online, older adults face the additional challenge of being outsized targets of misinformation and scams, both of which abound in the context of COVID-19. In this essay, we discuss the challenges faced by older adults in their use of digital media for social connection in the present pandemic, as well as highlight some of the population’s untapped strengths which can be leveraged to help them live prosperous online lives. Finally, we provide recommendations for actions which key stakeholders can take to support older adults in this pursuit.