Mature woman with mobile phone on her hands sitting in room and sending messages to her friends and family. Senior woman texting on her mobile phone Source: iStock.com/stefanamer

“I think I’ve deleted the Internet!”

11. October 2019 Published by Raphael Doerr

We use smartphones, tablets and the Internet every day as if it were second nature. Sending grandma a photo of the cake quickly is no longer a problem now. Because more and more elderly people use the web. Silver surfers are on the advance. Wireless Internet is standard in many places – you can surf free of charge using hotspots available at many public places. However, WLAN expansion is still in its infancy at old people’s homes.

Around twelve million people in Germany are still offline – and 95% of them are aged 50 and above. Yet digitization offers a diverse range of opportunities to keep in contact with the world around you, especially when you grow older and become less mobile. We demand and expect public access to the Internet to be commonplace at schools, universities and libraries. So why not at old people’s homes?

Just one-third of them in Germany has wireless Internet. That’s a growing problem for residents, and people interested in moving in explicitly ask if there is a wireless connection. No one at old people’s homes would like to do without the advantages the Internet offers, either. It makes it easier to keep in contact with family and friends. Your grandchild is spending an exchange semester in Australia? Keeping in touch is no problem thanks to WhatsApp and Skype.

WLAN – the gateway to the world

The elderly are less mobile. That is not only true of residents in an old people’s home, but also of their friends. Their visits become rarer and at some time or other the journey is simply too arduous. The Internet makes it easy to stay mobile in the virtual world – no matter if you’re still strong on your legs or need to use a walking aid or wheelchair. Elderly people can share in the life of their loved ones independently, even if they can’t always be there in person.

Volunteers now coach interested seniors in courses on how to use the new media, the advantages, but also the risks. They go through the first steps together on a tablet, explain what to heed, and are available to help answer all their questions. In that way, they help prevent the elderly from falling victim to scams, for example.

WLAN – a selection criterion?

So will elderly people in future choose a home not only on the basis of its location and the care provided, but on whether it has an Internet connection? The German National Association of Senior Citizens’ Organizations (BAGSO) does not regard that as the topmost criterion, but emphasizes that the issue of WLAN in old people’s homes is growing in importance. Seniors are unwilling to surrender the freedom they’ve won through using the Internet. Whether shopping, surfing or watching TV online – the Internet enhances their quality of life. Incidentally, silver surfers rarely stream films. But who knows: Maybe that will change in the future?


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