Connect, collaborate, communicate: Social media and aged care

| 28 Feb 2014
Social media in aged care

Social media use in this country is staggering.

At last count, there were 13 million active users on Facebook in Australia. Twitter boasts over 2.5 million active users in the Australian market, while LinkedIn has grown its following to over 5 million registered members. And throughout the month of January 2014, YouTube had over 12.5 million unique Australian visitors watching videos on the site.

If you think it is only the Generations X and Y that is responsible for driving this cultural, online phenomenon, think again. Baby Boomers, which represent the cohort born between 1946 and 1964, are embracing social media as a form of communication, networking and entertainment, and are as active online as ever.

Instead of shying away from the internet, Baby Boomers are now one of the fastest-growing demographics among online users. In fact, data from Nielsen’s Australian Online Landscape Review found that in July 2012, it was actually Baby Boomers who made up the largest proportion of online Australians at 32 percent. The Nielsen report also found that Baby Boomers were spending around 100 hours per month online and are almost as engaged as Generation X and Y.

Further evidence suggests that Baby Boomers are spending an average of 21 hours a week online and viewing 3000 internet pages per month, with 20 percent being active on social media and 25 percent preferring to shop online.

As the rapidly ageing and retiring Baby Boomers – and seniors alike – move online en masse, what opportunities does this present for aged care sector?

Social media and networking holds considerable value for aged care organisations because they can be used to support improved communications, connections and collaborations with key stakeholders in the sector.

Stakeholder: Aged care recipients

Recipients of aged care – whether residing in an aged care facility or in their own home – are the most frail and vulnerable members of our community.

Complex health issues, disabilities, physical limitations and isolation make it difficult for older people to maintain social contact and participate in social activities. However, social media and networking has proven to be effective in helping broaden interests and maintain morale.

Social media applications such as Tapestry are designed to help enrich the lives of senior Australians with a simplified platform that promotes social inclusion through connectivity, entertainment, health, welfare and community engagement.

Through Tapestry and other similar popular social sharing platforms, seniors can more easily stay connected with friends, family, carers, volunteers and loved ones; view, collect and share photographs; chat, email and participate in low-cost video calls.

There is a wide view that participating in social networks – either offline or online – is highly beneficial and a significant component in maintaining wellbeing for the elderly. Social media has the power to make social networks more accessible to the elderly.

Stakeholder: Families of care recipients

Aged care organisations can also look to use social media platforms to increase meaningful engagements with the families of care recipients, as well as the wider community.

Promoting educational material on YouTube, starting discussions on Facebook or in LinkedIn Groups, or broadcasting non-urgent messaging and communications on Twitter can all help to engage and develop relationships with families and their loved ones who are receiving care.

While engaging with families of care recipients on social media is key enabler in developing trust and understanding for families, it is also an extremely valuable marketing opportunity to reach those that are investigating potential care options for their loved ones.

The landscape is changing considerably, with many tech-savvy families seeking advice and support online when looking to place a relative in aged care. These searches aren’t only limited to websites either – we already know Baby Boomers are actively consuming a wide range of socially created content including blogs, videos, emails, podcasts, forums and online review sites.

Those aged care organisations with an active social media presence will gain a competitive advantage over those organisations who have not incorporated social media into their business strategy.

Stakeholder: Carers

According to research by consulting firms Age Lessons and comScore, carers spend about 150 minutes a month on social media sites, and browse 70 percent more online pages than the average person. Clearly, there is also an opportunity for carers to reap benefits from social media and networks.

Social media can be used to provide carers with information, feedback, support, and necessary resources to fulfil their roles and manage everyday life. Most importantly, social media provides a platform for carers to interact with people experiencing similar pressures and challenges.

Specifically, Twitter may be the right platform for carers to consider following for sources and updates relating to care-specific news, while Facebook Groups may be established to build an online support network where carers can express their thoughts and views of working in the sector.

Considerations …

While the use of social media is flourishing, it is essential when incorporating the use of social media that there is a policy based on your own organisation’s unique business requirements. When executed properly, a sound social media strategy can help aged care organisations engage with their stakeholders more effectively and grow business opportunities as a result.

Continue the conversation below. Is your own aged care organisation using social media effectively to engage with their stakeholders?

(Image credit: Master Isolated Images)

Tags: social media, technology

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The iCareHealth Team

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