Facebook is not just for the young. In fact, 64 percent of online American adults between the ages of 50 to 64 use the social media site, as do 48 percent of those 65 and older.
While Facebook may be the most popular social media site for those over 50, it's not the only one; you can also find older adults on such sites as Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, to name just a few.
Why It Matters
"Facebook can be a lifeline for older adults," says Jean Coppola, associate professor of information technology and director of the Pace University Gerontechnology Program.
"A lot of older adults are lonely and depressed," Coppola says. "They may have lost their spouse, and their kids and grandkids live far away. They long to stay in touch with their family. Being online--from checking their email to visiting Facebook--gives them a purpose."
"Nothing will replace face-to-face visits, but often social media can be the next best thing," says Brylee Kaye, adjunct professor of social media at New York Institute of Technology. "Families can share photos, videos, live streams, and video chat all over social media networks. Most communities have Facebook group pages where they post information about local events and issues. This can be a great way for older adults to keep up-to-date on what is happening about town."
Using social media, whether on a computer, tablet, or smartphone to keep up with family and friends is just one reason to get online, according to Coppola. Engaging in hobbies such as scrapbooking, watching videos, and playing games can also offer a greater sense of well-being, improve quality of life, and keep the brain active.
"There are even social networking sites like Stitch and Tapestry, which are dedicated to the needs of people over 50," says Kaye, adding that social media can be a way to meet new friends, find a new romance, or discover a new activity.
Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging, believes that social media serves a broader purpose as well. "When you see older adults singing and dancing on YouTube, for example, it dispels the myth of what aging is," he says. "It shows all of us that you can experience life to the fullest, no matter what your age, and it opens your eyes to other experiences."
Not sure how to get started? Samantha Romano, social media expert at the digital marketing agency Blue Fountain Media, offers this advice:
"First, help your parent decide what he or she wants to get out of social media," she says. “If they'd like to connect former colleagues, LinkedIn could be the best choice. To see what old buddies from high school are up to, or see what's happening in the news, Facebook is the best option."
To learn how to use social media, start close to home: Ask a grandkid! If that's not an option, says Jean Coppola, contact a local college and ask if they have volunteer tutors (Coppola suggests that one-on-one instruction allows you to learn at your own pace). Check out your local public library, senior center, or AARP's Technology Education Center to find a class near you. Or for online instruction, visit AARP's Social Media Education Center.
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