By Jenn Riggle
Baby Boomers are doing more than just catching up with high school friends and looking at photos of their grandbabies on Facebook.
New research shows they’re turning to Facebook as a way to deal with the daily stress of caring for elderly parents or family members who are critically ill. According to a report from multi-generational consulting firm Age Lessons and ComScore, Boomer caregivers use social media for 150 minutes per month and view 70 percent more pages than the average Internet user. And the majority of them are going to Facebook.
At first this seemed a little surprising. There are so many great online caregiver communities where people can vent their frustrations, learn from others and find additional resources. There are sites for people who are raising children with autism or taking care of elderly parents, as well as people caring for loved ones who’ve had a stroke, are living with Alzheimer’s disease or are battling cancer.
And while these are all great resources, it’s important that caregivers reach out to their family and friends, which is why so many are turning to Facebook.
Women have always been thought of as healthcare’s gatekeepers. So it’s not surprising that two-thirds (66 percent) of caregivers are women. However, a large percentage (42 percent) of caregiving responsibility is falling on the shoulders of Baby Boomers. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) are between the ages of 45-54 and 18 percent are 55-64. With so many Boomer caregivers, 73 percent of caregivers work either fulltime or part-time.
However, juggling jobs, family and the additional responsibility of caring for chronically ill family members can take a toll on women’s health. Not only does it mean they have to take time off from work, but lack of sleep and exercise, combined with poor eating habits, can contribute to caregivers developing heart disease, high blood pressure and depression. In addition, caregivers often miss their own doctor’s appointments and mammograms because they’re too busy balancing schedules.
The good news is that social media can help women with the daily stress of caregiving. A recent article in Psychology Today cited a new study that found that people with strong relationships have a 50 percent lower risk of mortality than those who are isolated and without social support.
Social networks have become an important part of our daily lives. Nearly 50 percent of online Boomers regularly update their profile on Facebook and other social networks as a way to connect with friends, family and co-workers. So when someone in their family becomes ill, they already have a support network in place.
Social media can be more than a marketing tool – it may actually be good medicine for caregivers.