ideas, innovations and apps for social work in the age of smartphones and social media
By Christina Reardon, MSW, LSW, Social Work Today, Vol. 12 No. 6 P. 10
Older adults are increasingly interested and involved in using technologies that allow them to stay more connected socially, with family, and with caregiving resources.
Bill Raymond loves his iPad and how it allows him to access the wonders of the Internet from anywhere. He calls it “the most fascinating device I have ever used.”
A couple years ago, Richard Schmidt began using Skype to communicate with a relative in California. Now, he regularly Skypes with relatives not only in California but also in New York, Florida, and Texas.
Raymond and Schmidt are not plugged-in teenagers or young adults raised on a steady diet of technology. They are residents of Greenspring, a retirement community in northern Virginia.
Technology is becoming more entrenched in American life and, contrary to popular perception, older adults are not immune to this phenomenon. 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.
In their literature review of research related to aging and technology, Blaschke, Freddolino, and Mullen (2009) identify several social work implications for the increasing use of technology tools among older adults. For example, social work schools must ensure that information about emerging technologies is integrated into practice curricula, and researchers should continue to study technologies for answers about which ones are effective enough to be incorporated into social work practice. Social workers also need to be aware of the ethical issues technology poses, such as concerns about privacy and questions about whether technology can adequately replace face-to-face services.