We have come to a point where using social media platforms has become commonplace for those of all ages.
It isn’t just millennials who use social media, older adults have adopted it and are enjoying spending time connecting with family, friends and other people around the globe.
Certainly we see many people using social media to express their unique viewpoints on Twitter, celebrities sharing perhaps too much on Instagram and lots of food on Pinterest! We also know about many seniors who are using social media, especially Facebook, to connect with long distance family and long lost friends.
We’ve seen great things happening for seniors who have begun using social media.
According to the latest Pew Research report on social media, “usage among those 65 and older has more than tripled since 2010, when 11% used social media. Today, 35% of all those 65 and older report using social media, compared with just 2% in 2005.”
Social Media Explained
What exactly is social media for those who may not be using it to its fullest? Social media is a term used to describe a multitude of online communication channels. It includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and many more. They are often referred to as social networking platforms.
Twitter is used for short snippets of information because messages are limited to 140 characters per tweet (rumored to be increased soon).
People of all ages use it for communicating, expressing opinions, broadcasting information of all kinds, and companies use it for advertising and marketing.
Users need only set up an account for free and use “@” for account names called handles and “#” (hashtags) to find streams (or categories) of information you will find most useful. Hashtags can also be just for fun like #homesweethome.
Many find Facebook to be a more interactive platform, with the ability to share more than is possible with Twitter. It is an easier way to converse compared to Twitter.
Each person sets up their individual profile and becomes friends with others, including family, friends, businesses, groups and community organizations.
This social media platform is the most widely used according to the Nielsen Group and other researchers.
Users can upload pictures, videos and messages of any length.
Instagram is a way to share photos with others. It doesn’t use text for communication, just photos.
Pictures are tagged using “#” to describe thoughts surrounding the picture like #dogsofinstragram. Many are using a variety of photographic techniques or filters to augment their photos.
A new trend is to upload videos on Instagram.
Pinterest is used to share images (photos) and save them in ‘boards’ for future use. You can follow what others are doing and pin images you enjoy.
Many people use this platform for pinning craft ideas, DIY project guides and recipes.
Google+ is a social networking platform created by Google, though it has not caught on as strongly as some of the other platforms.
It is used by many to share with others in ‘circles’ you create and you can find a large variety of information, including social interactions, information and images.
LinkedIn’s popularity is primarily in the business world. Working people – or those seeking employment – share information and articles of interest to their profession. They can link with others or network to find jobs, hire others or learn about new opportunities.
It also offers a forum for business people to discuss theories, new programs and the latest research in their field.
YouTube is a hugely popular video platform, where users share videos they have created.
Businesses use this platform to share information and educational videos to teach us to do something new such as play the piano. People also share funny things to entertain us like cats dancing (YouTube is famous for cat videos).
Users can ‘subscribe’ to channels of interest, such as Senior Care Corner or the National Institute on Aging. Whenever a new video is posted you are alerted.
Social media is about creating and nurturing a community of people with whom you want to interact. The goal is to have a means to build relationships.
It can be a way to stay socially stimulated, with as little or as much time commitment as you desire.
Benefits of Social Media for Seniors
Using social media for our senior loved ones will often be a new skill. They need to be comfortable with technology. They will be using a computer, tablet or smartphone to access social media platforms, which takes some education for many first-timers.
Once they have learned the basics of computing, they are ready to connect there are benefits for them throughout their tech journey.
- Learning a new skill such as computing stimulates their cognitive capacity.
- Mastering this new skill makes seniors confident in their ability to learn.
- Re-connecting with long lost friends after 40 or more years!
- Being a part of the life of grandkids and great-grandkids sharing messages, FaceTime, photos and updates, or just feeling a part of the action instead of being isolated from the younger family members.
- Improving mood when being able to stay connected with loved ones. Being alone and isolated can lead to depression and sadness but being together remotely helps feelings of happiness.
- Some seniors stated that it ‘brought fun’ into their lives again
- Couponing! Seniors can get discounts to local retail stores, restaurants and groceries from national companies.
- Some seniors find connecting via social media invigorating to the point that they update their appearance to put their best face forward for connections.
- Gathering credible medical information and prevention tips for better health can help seniors improve their own health.
- Increasing social engagement has been shown to aid seniors to live more independently longer as they were able to lower their disability level when their social activity spurred physical activity.
Getting Them Started
Naturally it will take a little bit of convincing for some senior loved ones, at least at first, that this is something they will love. Once your senior has agreed to give it a try, it will take a little more of your time to get them going.
Getting the right device is an important first step. Help them choose one they feel comfortable using, one that is easy to manipulate for their aging eyes and hands and connecting them to broadband services.
Once you have the device in their hands, the apps installed and your senior’s security settings created, you can help them get connected.
We suggest you start with an email account. Once that is done you can start teaching them how to use social media.
Facebook is more enjoyable for many seniors, who enjoy seeing photos and updates from family members. Pinterest is also very enjoyable as there are unlimited friends to find, new and old, and images to sift through. They will love looking at recipes, get ideas to share with grandkids and reminisce about the past through photos.
Social media can educate, inspire, connect and just simply be fun for aging in place seniors.
It is time to get started!