What’s the fastest growing demographic on Facebook? It’s not teens or even millennials, but seniors! While most older users fall into the category of “Facebook Surveillance”, since they prefer to use the platform to check out what the kids and grandkids are up to versus actually posting ourselves, there’s still a significant amount of people over 65 that post status updates, share photos and use social media chat features, like Facebook Messenger, to keep in touch with loved ones near and far.
How Seniors are Using Social Media
The stereotype that seniors lack technology skills is, well, old and outdated. Recent studies have shown that nearly 60 % of people over 65 use the Internet and 34% use social media websites. However, unlike their younger “selfie” counterparts, seniors are using social media in the way it was intended.
To Connect with Family. Social media has truly revolutionized the way that families connect. It’s now easier than ever for grandparents to follow the accomplishments of their college-aged grandkids on the other side of the country, simply by friending them on Facebook. Video calling has also changed the way parents, kids and grandparents talk. Rather than a distant voice on the phone, we can invite family from hundreds of miles away into our living rooms with video tools like Skype, FaceTime and Echo Spot.
One resident at the Glen Eddy senior living community in Niskayuna NY uses Alexa Echo Show to keep in touch with family, as well as for entertainment and information. When Dorothy S. isn’t video chatting with her three great grandchildren in Manhattan, she uses the voice command feature to make requests, like “Alexa, play music”, and to conduct voice searches, such as “Alexa, what will the weather be tomorrow?”
To Reunite with Old Friends. More than just family, seniors are using social networks to find work colleagues, college roommates, high school crushes and best friends from the old neighborhood. We are using Instagram to share photos, Facebook and LinkedIn to read colleague blog posts and view videos, and chat tools to have conversations with friends that we thought we might never speak to again.
“The best part of Facebook is that it connects me with past and current friends,” said Rena W., a resident at Beechwood senior living community in Troy NY. Rena, a part-time medical billing receptionist who is responsible for managing six phone lines and directing all calls, recently reunited with an old high school boyfriend through Facebook. A self-taught technology user, she owns both a desktop computer and an iPad, which she uses to keep in touch with friends when she’s on the go.
To Join Support Groups. Seniors are using social media to connect with others experiencing similar life challenges and health problems. From diabetes to dementia, hundreds of support groups have recognized that seniors are online and have created both public Facebook pages and private groups for seniors and their caregivers to share information and offer support. This is an especially helpful resource for individuals who are homebound.
To Gain Knowledge & Information. Whether reading reviews or crowdsourcing for answers with Facebook’s “Ask for Recommendations” posts, seniors have discovered that social media can provide a wealth of information.
Take Todd W. for example. A resident at Beverwyck senior living community in Slingerlands NY, Todd watched YouTube videos to learn how to build his own desktop computer. After purchasing all of the components, it took him only three days to build and another week or so to get his files transferred and the operating system installed.
How Seniors are Benefitting from Social Media
In a time when social media has faced much criticism for contributing to isolation and depression among younger users, it is actually having the opposite effect on seniors. By fostering regular connection with loved ones and reuniting friends from the past, social media sites, chat features and video calling tools, are improving our quality of life as we age. Not only is technology helping with late-life depression and isolation, but many seniors have reported enhanced cognitive thinking and even health.
Providing Seniors with Access to Social Media
Access to WiFi is essential for seniors to use social media, connect with loved ones, and gain access to news, information and entertainment. Several Internet providers now offer low-cost Internet service for eligible seniors, and one has even started a trial program to provide free computer and Internet training classes in several states.
For Eddy Senior Living residents, free WiFi is available at all of our independent living, assisted living, enriched housing and memory care communities. Residents can also install the Touchtown Community App on their mobile devices to contact staff and other residents, see daily activities and events, view menus and much more.
At The Glen at Hiland Meadows, a senior living community in Queensbury NY, Bobby and Jenny B. use the Touchtown Community App, as well as the resident portal, to view daily activity calendars and menus, look up resident and staff phone numbers and email addresses, place work orders, make transportation requests, and research their dining credit balances – all while out and about enjoying the many things that they love to do.