Seniors are one of the fastest growing groups on social media (websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin). They are realizing that social media can be a great tool for staying in contact with family and friends, sharing photos, and sharing their ideas. If you are a senior who has been debating whether or not to start using social media, never say never.
Mashable released an article about Anna Stoehr, a 113 year old woman who recently started an account on Facebook. She was trying to sign up before her birthday so that she could get some happy birthday posts from family members, but there was a problem. When she signed up she found that Facebook wouldn’t let her enter her true age in, so she had to change it to the spry age of 99 to get her account rolling.
The internet can be a tricky place to navigate, with some interesting rules that are supposed to be followed. Don’t let that deter you though. It is completely possible for anyone to figure out if they have the patience, or especially some help.
How Can You Use Social Media?
Facebook and Twitter may sound like websites that kids use, but they can be incredible tools for anyone.
About 46% of senior citizens are on social media. I think they come to social media for two reasons. The first is to stay in touch with family that live in other areas and reconnect with old friends. For this reason I believe that Facebook is the most useful because it is the easiest for them to use, and the most compatible with their needs. The second reason is more seniors are starting businesses—because they have been retired for a while and are bored, or maybe their retirement funds are not lasting as had hoped. They have a lot of knowledge to offer.
Photojournalist Robbie Kaye is the artist and author behind the book Beauty and Wisdom, a portfolio and essay about senior citizen women across the country and their beauty parlor rituals. In addition to her insights as a journalist, she has personal experience with seniors and social media.
Several years ago we bought my mother an iPad and it really opened up a whole new world for her. She was able to keep in touch with friends and family, and view old segments of Johnny Carson and Phil Donahue, and most importantly I was able to actually see my mother and visit with her (as I live on the other side of the country).
Pat Skene, a retired boomer herself, agrees that social media can help seniors feeling disconnected get back in touch with the world. She is a prolific author, a blogger at Boomerrantz, and has formed her own publishing company at Press Here to Start Publishing.
As an aging boomer, I found I had a lot to say about getting old and no real way to express myself. Getting old is a bitch! And why should I suffer in silence? So at the urging of my niece, I started to blog about my experiences—mostly in a humorous way—and found that many like-minded people were out there to share these moments with me. … It’s too easy to become invisible as we age, and I hope my blog posts encourage other seniors to speak up and be noticed … and to laugh at themselves.
But the Scrabble game platforms are my personal favorites. Yes, I love the game of Scrabble, but most online versions have a chat facility attached to the games. So you can play and talk with your opponent if you wish. My two sisters and I live far away from each other. We start our day with our coffee and Scrabble, and chat back and forth throughout the games. It’s like we’re together for that part of the day and we love it.
Social media has taken over the internet precisely because it is social. Getting older changes a lot of things, but it doesn’t diminish your need to be connected with friends and family—or even to make some new ones!
Where Should You Start?
You’ve probably heard of Facebook at this point, but there are many more social media websites to take advantage of. Each have their own flavor and specialties, so try as many as you want until you find the right fit for yourself. Here are some of the big ones:
- Facebook is definitely the biggest and it does everything. Most of your loved ones are probably already there posting pictures of the kids and sharing details about their daily lives.
- Twitter uses short text updates (you only get 140 characters). You can link to anything else on the internet, and it’s how a lot of people stay up to date on specific news or business topics. (You can follow us on Twitter too!)
- Instagram is perfect for you if you have a smartphone and enjoy photography. This social network is built on photo-sharing.
- Pinterest is how people save and share ideas. Imagine an online cork board, and you have Pinterest. If you like new recipes, crafts, and/or decorating, this one is definitely for you.
- LinkedIn is the professional social network. It’s used mostly for sharing resumes and building business connections.
Carol D O’Dell is the author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir, written for the “sandwich” generation and all those who find themselves caring for a loved one. Her blog, Mothering Mother and More has been featured as a top ten health care blogs in the country by Sharecare.
Many teenagers and young people will say that Facebook is for their parents (or grandparents) and Twitter/Instagram is for the younger population and I do find that to be true. Many seniors tap into Facebook to keep up with grandkids and relatives and even search for former classmates and coworkers.
Helen Hudson has some wonderful tips for seniors just starting to use social media for the first time. Hudson is an author and speaker who frequently shares about caring for family members with Alzheimer’s.
Seniors would benefit from Facebook, simply to connect with family and friends. I would also suggest a Twitter account, if for nothing more than to follow newspapers, personalities, or TV shows in which they have an interest. Catching the latest news in just a few minutes on their feed would be fun.
Teresa Ambord is a senior editor for a New York news publisher, and a freelance writer and editor. Most of what she writes is for senior citizens, and appears on Go60.us.
For seniors looking for work, I recommend starting a LinkedIn account. I’ve had two major careers, first as an accountant, and then writing. Without seeking them, I get frequent notices of high-quality jobs in both areas. It has helped me establish online relationships with some well-placed publishers and editors.
If I had a tip for using LInkedIn, it would be developing connections. When I need to find a contact for a new publication I want to write for, I can type in the name of the publication and several contacts will come up. Then, LinkedIn will show if I know someone who knows that person.
You can join as many or as few social networks as you want, so there’s no wrong answer to where you should start. If you try one and it doesn’t work out, just close your account and move on!
Tips and Tricks for Success (and Safety) on Social Media
The etiquette of social media can be nuanced (and overemphasized). You’ll pick up most of it as you go, but it can be helpful to have a few tricks up your sleeve as you get started.
I think the etiquette of social media should be shared with everyone, not just seniors. Keep it short, non-judgmental, positive, and in balance—in terms of how much one posts. If they get into playing games, invite people to play, and they don’t get a response, take that as a message that they do not want to engage in Facebook games, etc. and do not invite them again. — Robbie Kaye
I always tell my clients, or even family and friends that are new to social media, never write anything that you wouldn’t want your grandma to read. So maybe I would recommend to grandma, don’t write anything that you wouldn’t want your grandchildren or your kids to read. — Kim Starry
Many seniors today use email for the sole purpose of forwarding jokes! They pass on viruses and annoy recipients with a deluge of jokes every day. They don’t even send a personal message with the joke — simply forward it on, sometimes to their entire contact list. This is one of my pet peeves. If you are going to forward a joke, send a personal message with it to say hello, and be discerning on the number of times you send on junk mail like this to your friends. — Pat Skene, Boomerrantz
You do, of course, need to be careful about what you share and whom you trust. There are some scary stories out there, but if you use some common sense and get some help checking your privacy settings (if you need it), you’ll be fine.
Caution ALL seniors to NEVER click on ads or open emails unless they actually know the person. Never put personal info—like their address or phone number or even their comings/goings—on ANY sites! — Helen Hudson
I have seen two friends of mine (both seniors—one man, one woman) get involved in “romance scams” because someone asked to “friend” them on Facebook. The scam artists targeted them because of their age and because they told the whole world they were single. My female friend, who was targeted, emailed to tell me she was getting married in a couple of months, to someone who asked to “friend” her on Facebook. I was happy for her until she said he lived far away, and she would meet him for the first time on their wedding day. It took only a few minutes for me to discover this man was a fraud. — Teresa Ambord, Go60
My tech-savvy son taught me to use a phrase from a favorite song, poem, Scripture, etc., and take the first letter of each word to form your password—using capital letters for most words and small letters for connecting words like “and.” Throw in at least one number and symbol, and your chances of having a strong password are much better. Using a line from an old song, “I could have danced all night and still have begged for more!” — in this case it might look like this: ICHDANaSHB4M!
Finally, don’t be afraid to just give it a try. The only way anyone learns how to use social media is by jumping in and trying it out. There’s so much value you might miss!
Just not to be afraid to use it! As we age, our world get smaller and smaller, due to mobility issues, health concerns, or financial circumstances. It’s also very easy to become socially disconnected without jobs to go to and be complacent with an increasingly stagnant life. — Pat Skene, Boomerrantz
Don’t think you are too old to learn it. Jump in with a positive attitude and learn, you will be so thankful that you did, I guarantee it. You will get to hear about things family members and friends are doing that you otherwise wouldn’t have even know. You may be able to reconnect with friends that you haven’t seen for a long time that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. — Kim Starry
Get Out There And Try It!
For a lot of people, social media is the most satisfying element of the internet. It is a way for everyone to be social with the people they care about, even when they are too busy to physically see them, and follow brands or businesses they like.