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“They’re often not as included in these types of networks as are other groups.” Overcoming Stereotypes Despite the benefits technology tools can have for older adults seeking social connections, there remains the public perception—perhaps shared by many social workers—that older adults aren’t interested in technology or don’t want to learn about it.

Although many barriers such as cost of Internet access, equipment that is not user friendly, and fear of failure exist for older adults who want to learn about technology, there are indications that many older adults continue to hold positive attitudes toward technology or at least accept that it is crucial to participating in society.

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The company’s approach combines a Web-based social networking and distance-learning platform with programming that includes discussion groups, computer learning curricula, and social clubs.

Connected Living has been implemented in 24 states, both in private older adults living facilities and public housing authorities.

“The idea is to help older adults connect with family, other adults, and their communities,” says Sarah Hoit, Connected Living’s CEO.

“Just because older adults are living together in a retirement community, that doesn’t mean they’re connected.

Although older adults as a group continue to lag behind their younger counterparts in adopting new technology, an increasing number of elders like Raymond and Schmidt are using the Internet, Facebook, Skype, and other tools to connect with friends, family members, and caregivers.

Social workers who ignore the role of technology in older adults’ relationships risk missing an important piece of the puzzle in helping these adults maintain and improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

There are myriad reasons older adults have turned to technology.

Older adults see technology as a tool for connecting with family and friends, developing new friendships, exploring options for entertainment and hobbies, accessing support and information about health topics, and managing activities of daily life, such as banking and shopping (Blaschke, Freddolino, & Mullen, 2009).

“Most of the time, social workers are not asking older adults—or any of their clients—about their social connections made online or through technology,” says Paul Freddolino, Ph D, a professor and the associate director for research and distance education at Michigan State University’s School of Social Work.

“If we limit our understanding, we’re missing a dimension that’s important.” Reaching Out With Technology Slightly more than one-half of American adults aged 65 and older use the Internet or e-mail, and 70% of older adults online use the Internet on a daily basis, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Social networking also is increasing among this age group, as about one-third of older adult Internet users visit sites such as Facebook and Linked In, up from 13% in 2009.

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