Senior Social Networking 101

October 22, 2013 | Found In:  Aging

A popular image floating around the web depicts an older woman squinting at a computer screen with a confused look on her face, perpetuating a longstanding myth that seniors aren’t internet-savvy. In reality, however, seniors are the fastest growing demographic on social media sites across the globe. Indeed, as of August 2013 43% of Americans over 65 years old were using at least one social networking site (compare this to the figures in 2010 and 2008: 26% and 1%, respectively!). Those of you not active on these social media sites may be wondering why so many seniors are joining.

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For one thing, these sites provide a sense of connection and community. A 2012 Archives of Internal Medicine study that followed 1,604 adults aged 60 and older for six years found that 43% of older adults reported feeling lonely and they were more likely to experience health declines that their less lonely peers. Andrew Steptoe, director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at University College, London, said of the study, “There is growing evidence that both loneliness and social isolation are related to biological processes that may increase health risk, including changes in immune and inflammatory processes and disruption of the stress-related hormones.” For many seniors who live alone, social media sites facilitate the formation and cultivation of relationships. In addition, those who may live far away from loved ones can use these sites to shorten the geographic gap.

If you are interested in joining social networking sites, or know a senior who may benefit from engaging in social media, consider these four “social-networking-lite” sites that are among the most popular for those just getting started:

  1. Facebook: The social networking site. Users can create personal profiles, follow friends, join interest groups and interact by commenting and ‘liking’ friends’ posts and pictures.
  2. Pinterest: A pinboard-style photo sharing website. You can group images into categories (e.g., my granddaughter’s wedding, gardening inspiration, home décor, etc.)
  3. Instagram: An online photo and video sharing site. The application also features easy ways to edit and enhance the media that you share.
  4. LinkedIn: A social, professional networking site. This can be a great tool for keeping up with former and present colleagues. You can also follow thought leaders in various industries to read their posts and updates.

Are you or other seniors in your life on social media? What sites have you found the most engaging and for what purpose do you use them?

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