Seniors, Screens, and Well-being

Finding harmony in the digital era
Research suggests that excessive screen time can impair memory, attention span, and cognitive functioning.
Research suggests that excessive screen time can impair memory, attention span, and cognitive functioning. Special arrangement

Phone addiction is not limited to youth and children; elders, too, can find themselves entangled in the web of excessive screen time. As technology becomes increasingly integrated into our lives, the allure of smartphones and their endless possibilities can captivate individuals of all ages, including senior citizens.

However, it is important to recognise the potential side effects and negative consequences that excessive addiction to screens can have on the well-being of our elderly population.

One of the primary side effects of excessive phone addiction in seniors is a decline in physical health. Spending long hours engrossed in the digital realm often leads to a sedentary lifestyle, with limited physical activity and movement.

This lack of exercise can contribute to weight gain, muscle atrophy, and overall deterioration of physical fitness. Additionally, prolonged screen time can strain the eyes, leading to visual problems and discomfort.

Mental and emotional well-being also suffer as a result of excessive screen addiction among senior citizens. Constant engagement with screens can lead to social isolation and withdrawal from real-life interactions. Seniors may find themselves disconnected from their immediate surroundings and the people around them, leading to feelings of loneliness and depression.

Excessive phone use may also disrupt sleep patterns, as the blue light emitted by screens interferes with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, resulting in lack of sleep and fatigue. Cognitive decline is another concerning side effect of excessive screen addiction in seniors. Research suggests that excessive screen time can impair memory, attention span, and cognitive functioning.

The constant bombardment of information and stimuli from the digital world can overload the brain and hinder its ability to process and retain information. This can have a significant impact on daily activities, decision-making, and overall cognitive performance.

Furthermore, excessive phone addiction can strain interpersonal relationships, both within the family and among friends. Seniors who are preoccupied with their screens may neglect meaningful face-to-face interactions, leading to a breakdown in communication and emotional connection. This can create a sense of disconnect and alienation, as loved ones may feel neglected or ignored.

To mitigate the adverse effects of excessive screen addiction among seniors, it is crucial to promote awareness and encourage healthy technology habits. Education on the potential risks and limitations of screen time should be provided, along with strategies for maintaining a balanced lifestyle. Seniors should be encouraged to engage in physical activities, socialise with others, and pursue hobbies and interests that do not revolve around screens. Setting boundaries and designated screen-free times can help establish a healthier relationship with technology.

Strategies that can help seniors prevent screen addiction:

Set Screen Time Limits

Establish specific time limits for screen usage each day. Determine a reasonable amount of time for activities such as browsing the internet, checking emails, or engaging with social media. Stick to these limits to avoid excessive screen time.

Create Screen-Free Zones

Designate certain areas in your home as screen-free zones. This could be the dining area, bedroom, or any other space where you want to promote face-to-face interactions and relaxation without the distraction of screens.

Engage in Physical Activities

Encourage seniors to engage in physical activities that promote movement and exercise. Regular exercise not only improves physical health but also helps reduce the inclination to spend excessive time on screens.

Pursue Hobbies and Interests

Encourage seniors to explore and pursue hobbies and interests that do not involve screens. This could include activities such as gardening, painting, knitting, playing a musical instrument, or engaging in outdoor activities.

Connect with Nature

Encourage seniors to spend time outdoors, connecting with nature and enjoying the beauty of the natural world. Going for walks, sitting in a park, or participating in outdoor activities can provide a refreshing break from screen time.

Prioritise Social Interaction

Foster opportunities for seniors to engage in social interactions with friends, family, and the community. Encourage regular gatherings, outings, and activities that involve face-to-face communication and meaningful connections.

Explore Offline Entertainment

Encourage seniors to explore offline entertainment options such as reading books, listening to music, playing board games, or engaging in arts and crafts. These activities provide mental stimulation and relaxation without relying on screens.

Establish Tech-Free Bedtime Routine

 Create a bedtime routine that excludes screen usage at least an hour before sleep. Engaging in calming activities such as reading a book, listening to soft music, or practising relaxation techniques can promote better sleep quality.

Seek Support and Accountability

Encourage seniors to seek support and accountability from family members, friends, or other relatives. They can work together to maintain healthy screen habits and provide encouragement during the process.

Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

Promote the practice of mindfulness and being present in the moment. Encourage seniors to be aware of their screen usage patterns, take breaks, and engage in mindful activities that promote relaxation and self-reflection. While excessive screen usage can have negative effects, it’s important to recognize that screens, when used in moderation, can offer several benefits for seniors. Here are some of the benefits of screen usage for seniors when used in limit:

Communication and Connectivity

Screens provide a means of staying connected with loved ones, especially for seniors who may have limited mobility or live far away from family and friends. Through video calls, social media platforms, and messaging apps, seniors can maintain relationships, share experiences, and combat feelings of loneliness or isolation.

Access to Information and Learning

Screens offer a vast source of information and educational resources. Seniors can use the internet to explore new interests, access news and current events, engage in online courses, and expand their knowledge on a wide range of subjects. This continuous learning can keep their minds active and promote mental well-being.

Entertainment and Relaxation

Screens provide a variety of entertainment options for seniors. They can watch movies, TV shows, documentaries, or listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks, which can be a source of relaxation and enjoyment. Engaging in entertainment activities can help seniors unwind, reduce stress, and enhance their overall well-being.

Mental Stimulation and Cognitive Exercises

Certain screen activities, such as brain-training apps or puzzle games, can provide mental stimulation and engage cognitive functions. These activities can help seniors maintain cognitive abilities, improve memory, enhance problem-solving skills, and promote brain health.

Access to Health and Wellness Resources

 Screens offer a wealth of health-related information, including access to medical resources, health apps, and online support communities. Seniors can utilise these resources to monitor their health, track medications, access virtual healthcare services, engage in telemedicine consultations, and find helpful tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Convenient Access to Services

Screens provide convenience by allowing seniors to access various services from the comfort of their homes. They can shop online for groceries, household items, or medications, access banking services, schedule appointments, and order prescriptions. This convenience can be especially beneficial for seniors with mobility challenges.

Creative Expression and Hobbies

Screens can serve as a platform for seniors to engage in creative activities and pursue hobbies. They can participate in virtual art classes, join online writing communities, learn a musical instrument through tutorials, or share their creative work on digital platforms. Such outlets can foster self-expression, creativity, and a sense of accomplishment. It’s essential for seniors to find a balance between screen usage and other meaningful activities. By utilising screens in moderation and focusing on the benefits mentioned above, seniors can make the most of these technological tools while still maintaining a well-rounded and fulfilling lifestyle.

Dr Zubair Saleem is a Senior Geriatric Consultant and a Gerontologist and Dr Showkat Rashid Wani is a Senior Coordinator, Distance Education, University of Kashmir.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK

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