Loneliness likely behind senior Internet ‘addiction’

Beijing: “Internet addiction” was once a term used to describe youngsters hooked on watching videos or playing games online. But today, an increasing number of seniors are also falling victim, Yinchuan Daily reported.

A woman surnamed Wang from Yinchuan in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, recently experienced a worrying episode. One morning as she arrived at her office, she noticed missed calls from her mother.When she called back, Wang was surprised to find that her mother only wanted her phone charger, which she had mistakenly taken to the office.

She hurried home only to find that the phone was still 70% charged, but her mother was still afraid that it would run out of power. Wang then realised her mother was addicted to her mobile phone.

After feeling dizzy recently, Wang’s mother underwent a physical check-up and was diagnosed with cervical spine deformity, as well as impaired eyesight.

She spends eight hours a day playing games, watching news and short video clips online and is just one of a growing number of seniors increasingly glued to their mobile phones.

According to a report on Internet use by China’s elderly produced by mobile content aggregator Qutoutiao last year, 38.6% of people aged 60 or older were Internet users, and around 0.2% of them spend at least 10 hours a day online.

Medical experts said phone overuse can worsen cervical spondylosis – age-related wear and tear of the neck – and lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

In addition to health problems, phone addictions also trigger family disputes.

Another man surnamed Ma said: “Since my father installed a shopping app on his phone, he has become a compulsive buyer. Every day, there are parcels delivered to our home. But many of the things he buys are discounted and of poor quality.”

Wei Junping, who is a psychological consultant, said heavy use of mobile phones is linked to the spare time seniors have after retirement, as well as their desire for contact with others.

“After they retire, some elderly people have fewer opportunities to socialise and fall into a spiritual void of loneliness,” Wei said, adding that for many retirees, a smartphone is the best way to kill the time.The elderly interact with friends through social media platforms such as WeChat, which makes them feel connected, while short videosharing platforms such as Douyin feed their curiosity.

Wei said while it is natural for the elderly to try to meet their emotional needs and find validation online, they should get regular rest at night.

For their part, adult children should visit their parents more frequently to help relieve their loneliness and encourage them to get involved in more healthy activities to enrich their lives. — China Daily/ANN

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