A May 2017 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project revealed that approximately 67% of seniors over age 65 use the internet and that number continues to grow.
“We have residents that are very involved in emailing their family and friends or even using Skype to connect with family members who are unable to visit,” said Nancy Venema, life enrichment coordinator at Holland Home’s Fulton Manor. “We have a 97 year old resident with severe visual and hearing impairments who has taken our computer classes so she could learn how to email her family who live outside of Michigan.”
Following is a short primer on some of the social media tools available today.
Email is a wonderful way to stay in close contact with family and friends. It’s easy to set up a free email account at gmail.com, yahoo.com or various other sites. You can also email photographs, documents, videos, etc. And it’s virtually instantaneous so there’s no waiting for the mailman to come.
While Facebook use is declining among teenagers, in the 65 and older age group, 45% are on Facebook. Facebook is an online social networking service and is another great way to stay connected with family and friends. The newsfeed, which appears on every user's homepage, highlights information including profile changes, upcoming events, and birthdays of the user's friends. It’s easy to share pictures, and to provide updates to a number of people at once. Facebook has a variety of privacy settings allowing you to choose how public you want your information to be. Registering is free and requires a valid email address. By accepting or not accepting friend requests, you can control who sees what you are sharing.
Twitter is another online social networking site where you can send and receive “tweets” or updates limited to 140 characters. Users may subscribe to other users' tweets – this is known as following and subscribers are known as followers. Unlike with Facebook, you cannot control who “follows” you on Twitter.
Messages can be categorized by using the # symbol, known as a hashtag. It is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. For instance “Check my Facebook page for a great #recipe for #apple #pie.” Anyone interested in recipes, apples or pies can search for those hashtags (keywords) and follow the conversation.
Registering for Twitter is free.
Communicating with someone via telephone and being able to see each other used to be the stuff of futuristic cartoons, but it is now a reality with Skype. The service allows users to communicate by voice using a microphone and by video by using a webcam (a video camera that feeds an image to a computer.) While Skype is not a form of social media, it is a wonderful way to stay in touch with family. Imagine being able to see as well as talk to your grandchildren or other distant family members from hundreds of miles away.
Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board where you can collect photos and links to things you want to save like recipes, DIY projects, travel destinations, etc. By downloading the Pinterest “Pin It” button, you can click on a picture on the internet and save it to your bulletin board. When you click on the picture again, it automatically links back to the original site. You can have multiple bulletin boards, and pins can be collected according to themes.
“The new technology is now a way of life,” said Michael Loughman, director of sales for Holland Home. “We have made computer classes available on all our campuses and also have volunteers who are willing to work one-on-one with our residents.”
Even if you decide not to try any of these social media tools, you will be able to surprise your children and grandchildren when you understand what they are talking about when they say they’ve been tweeting or Skyping or pinning or friending on Facebook!