Social networking is finding growing popularity among older adults, a trend we see a great, both for seniors and their loved ones.
We’ve been urging family caregivers to encourage and enable their senior loved ones to give social media / social networking a try for some time. We consider it so important that we’ve made it a priority at Senior Care Corner because of the benefits those sites offer for seniors who are active — and their family members.
Anecdotal evidence from online listening and personal interactions has told us more and more older adults are getting online and on social networking sites and now we see new numbers backing that up.
Senior Web & Social Networking Numbers Up
New data from the Pew Research Center indicates that 6 of every 10 Americans who are 65 or older report using the web, reflecting a steady increase in the last few years. We think that’s great news, not just for social media participation but for so much more that can be found and done online.
Once online, 4 in 10 report using a social networking site, “like Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus” as asked by Pew Research in their survey.
Taken together, the numbers say that 1 in 4 members of the senior population – everyone 65 years old and up – are on social networking sites. That number might be somewhat understated, too, because they only ask the social networking question of those who report using the internet. Some comments and questions we’ve seen indicate that many people who use social networking apps on their smartphones or tablets don’t think of that as using the internet.
Regardless, the number is definitely going in the right direction.
Future Looks Even Brighter
The numbers of seniors on the web and social media sites is only going to rise as more and more baby boomers become seniors themselves.
4 out of 5 younger boomers, those with ages from 50 to 64, report being active online and half of all those in that age group say they use social networking sites. If they keep those habits, clearly the number of “social seniors” will continue growing at a rapid clip.
We see the growth in social networking site usage by seniors and younger boomers to be a factor in the continued growth in adoption by other older adults. As seniors hear and see that not just their younger family members but also their friends and peers are using social media then the attraction of making the leap themselves will grow.
Growing Importance to Seniors of Social Media
Our drive to get more seniors and other older family members online reflects what we see as the benefit they will derive from doing so. Even more, though, it seems as if those who are not connected to the world via social media sites are missing out on important opportunities. That’s key for seniors aging in place in a home of their own, especially those whose families and lifelong friends aren’t nearby.
These are just some of the benefits of social media / social networking participation for seniors.
- Staying in touch with friends and family members — across distance and time zones, including the ability to share messages, pictures and videos.
- Engaging in community dialogues across a broad range of topics and interest areas. When it comes to the social networking, “community” can mean local, national or international and the dialogues can be open to the public or (with some social media options) limited to specific invitees or interest groups.
- Enjoying better health and safety while living independently due to closer communication capabilities with healthcare providers, caregivers and more – with the potential to allow many seniors to live on their own even longer. A simple daily contact with family members or caregivers via social media (call it a check-in if you want) can give seniors and their loved ones greater peace of mind knowing they never have to be out of touch.
- Making new friends and acquaintances, opening new doors to social interaction and linkages to others so that even seniors living independently in their own homes need not feel alone.
- Saving money by taking advantage of the many promotions and discounts offered by businesses, local to global, who are learning in greater numbers each day they should be where their customers are active, which increasingly means on social media sites. Yes, there are ads but typically not as intrusive as on TV or radio, and those ads are more likely to offer coupons or other promotions because they don’t have the screen to themselves (as they do on TV) and must compete for attention.
There are many more reasons that draw people back to social networking sites on a daily basis so there’s sure to be some benefit for each senior loved one.
Connecting with Younger Family Members
Much is said about teens and young adults leaving Facebook behind now that parents and grandparents find it popular, but we still see it as a place seniors can link up with children, grandchildren and more. It sounds like only a few are totally abandoning the social network, with most taking their socializing with friends to other sites but still part of the Facebook community and interacting with family through the site.
While Facebook is by far the most popular social network, many take advantage of the opportunity to share videos with friends and family on YouTube and photos on a growing number of sites set up for social sharing.
Helping Seniors Get Started
As family caregivers, you know the needs and interests of your senior loved ones and the best way to approach getting them started online and with social networking – – if they haven’t beaten you to it and gotten out there themselves already! This can include not just getting on the web or mobile app to connect with the social network, but setting them up with the right hardware for them. That could be a traditional desktop computer (yes, those are still sold), a laptop or one of the many smartphones and tablets, which are becoming increasingly popular with seniors.
Don’t forget that it’s not just the seniors who benefit when they are active on social media sites. Family members of all ages can enjoy close relationships with even far away older loved ones, a closeness that hasn’t been available to many dispersed families.
They might even have something to teach us!
Don’t forget to check back and take a look around Senior Care Corner for ideas and tools to help make social networking and all aspects of senior loved ones’ lives – and that of family caregivers – better!