Lately who else WhatsApp get is from my father. With about 80 years he acts like a child with new shoes with his mobile phone, enjoys discovering his applications and uses his 14-year-old grandson when in doubt. Middle Age Users for WhatsApp has been increased by 22%, In a short time he has learned to share information, to send photographs of home scenes, excursions and trips in the company of my mother and of friendly couples with whom he exchanges confidences, jokes and news about common hobbies.
We live separated by more than 1,700 kilometers away (Madrid-Tenerife), but suddenly the communication has intensified and the roles have changed to such an extent that, on a recent visit, I saw myself calling attention because, sitting at the table, he kept attending to the messages he received from the companions of a group of music fans to which he belongs.
Anyway, I suppose the same will happen to many of you. I have friends who have given their parents hands-on how to move on Twitter or driving courses on the Internet and social networks, I even know one who has discovered how fun her mother is through her messages on Facebook.
That our elders are increasingly connected, that they consider the new tools as a useful means to organize their day to day and as great entertainment, is an indisputable fact that, in a way, contributes to reduce the generational distances. A 2012 report from the Washington-based Pew Research Center indicated that the number of users of social networks had stabilized among those under 30 and began to grow among those who had already exceeded 65.
According to data from the Vodafone Foundation, in Spain the mobile phone is essential for 70% of the population between 65 and 80 years old, while the average of those who use the Internet in a similar age range is close to 50%.
“Your father’s experience is a fairly common trend in other families,” confirms Roser Beneito, author of Older People and Social Media: Breaking Marginality, a study for the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) that he conducted after follow for two years a group of people between 64 and 79 years. In the third age, Facebook and WhatsApp reign and selfies are detested, reveals in her work this professor of computer science, multimedia and telecommunications.
Confesses that when he faced his project he had to disassemble enough stereotypes and he was surprised “to see how much new technologies mean for the elderly in terms of projecting a positive image of themselves and also to feel active members of the society”.
At advanced ages it is not sought to increase social relations, as in youth, but to integrate, to be participants in the public sphere, to access modernity. “A kind of techno-snobism” works, it is indicated in the UOC report, which also highlights the importance of networks in maintaining affective ties with family and friends and in non-intrusive monitoring of children’s activities and grandchildren Nothing to do with that idea of the Internet as a cold medium that encourages the departure of reality from others.
However, Beneito believes that “older people are still one of the groups that suffer most from isolation and that this trend will increase in the coming decades.” “I don’t think the Internet is a revolution in this regard,” he says. “Social networks help mitigate the loneliness of those people who already have social networks in real life. But collective policies must address both aspects at the same time, offline and online . ” I think about his reflections while my cell phone rings and I get a beautiful picture of the sea sent, of course, by my father.