It’s easy to feel left out when everyone is talking about a funny video they saw on Facebook or keeping up with each other’s life milestones through their social feeds. And what’s a hashtag, anyway?
As an older adult, you might feel like social media is not for you. However, you might just discover that it opens whole new worlds to you—especially during times of social distancing. Actually, almost half of Americans 65 and overuse Facebook. Whether you’re a senior yourself, or you want to encourage one you love to get connected, here’s some advice on learning to use social media.
Banish Stereotypes About Seniors and Technology
It’s easy to fall into the trap of labeling certain activities as being just for “young people” or “old people.” The truth is, teenagers knit and grandparents surf. If you want to explore new things on the internet or connect with loved ones using technology, there is no age limit!
Here are a few fun facts, reported by Pew Research:
- 46% of people 65 and up use Facebook
- 38% of people 65 and up use YouTube
- 15% of people 65 and up use Pinterest
- 68% of Baby Boomers own a smartphone and 52% own a tablet computer
Become your own statistic; don’t let anyone tell you seniors and social media don’t go together.
Fun Ways for Seniors to Engage on Social Media
What can you actually do on social media? There are almost limitless possibilities, and sometimes that’s the problem. It can sound overwhelming. So, here are a few examples of how you might use certain social platforms.
At a very minimum, you will need an email address to create an account on a social media platform. There are many free tools to do so, and one probably came pre-installed on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Ask someone if you need help getting it set up.
Facebook: Connect with Family or Friends
Seniors can use Facebook to stay in touch with family members and reconnect with old friends.
- Set up an account with information like your name, photo, where you worked or went to school, and what you like to do. Old friends may reach out and want to reconnect.
- If you would rather not be so public, you can make your account visible only to select people. Then you can “friend” them—your relatives and close friends—to send them messages and photos.
- If you don’t want to share anything yourself, you might simply use Facebook to see what your friends and family are up to. Many people post photos of special events, their kids, their hobbies and so much more. You can choose to just follow along.
YouTube: Watch or Share Videos
Seniors can use YouTube to find videos to pass the time or learn something new. Popular YouTube content for seniors includes movie clips, music and concerts, how-to videos for hobbies, and even videos of family.
- YouTube is a search engine; if you can “Google,” you can search YouTube. Search for subjects that interest you to find entertaining or informative videos on that subject.
- If friends or family post their own YouTube videos they can share the links with you in an email, text message or Facebook post. You should be able to just click on the link to view it.
- If you’re feeling more advanced, you can shoot your own videos with a smartphone or tablet and upload them, and share them privately or publicly.
Pinterest: Discover Creative Ideas
Pinterest is a great platform to discover new ideas related to food, fashion, beauty, decor, and DIY projects. Interior design ideas for senior living homes, for example, is just one of many topics.
- Join Pinterest to browse for things that interest you. Search for hobbies, recipes, or art, for example. You don’t need an account to look around, but you will need one if you want to “pin” things.
- After creating your own account, you can collect things you like onto “boards.” It’s sort of like scrapbooking, and many people manage to figure it out just by playing around with it. You can keep these boards public or keep them for your eyes only.
Advice for Seniors Learning Social Media
Social media is a wide and growing world, so start slowly and take a few precautions. You wouldn’t jump behind the wheel of a car without knowing the basics of operating it, so let’s look at a few things seniors should know about social media.
1. Choose One Platform to Start
Rather than getting overwhelmed when you hear about Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp, and whatever is the next new thing, just pick one social media platform. You can always branch out later.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Social media comes more naturally to people who grew up with the internet or who work with it everyday. A friend, relative, or senior living staff member may be happy to walk you through it at first, whether over the phone or video conference. It might help you to write down their instructions for future reference.
3. Be Aware of Advertising
Know that not everything you see in a social media feed comes from someone you know. Advertisers place ads into your feed for things you might like. This isn’t always a bad thing—you might find something interesting. Just remember that advertising is part of the deal, and it’s what makes these platforms free to use.
4. Watch Out for Scams
Social media is accessible to the entire world, which unfortunately includes those with ill intent. It’s important for seniors to manage their online privacy carefully. Don’t believe everything you read, and never give out personal information like your social security number, bank account information, or password over social media. It’s even possible for scammers to impersonate people you know. If you see a post that looks strange or feels off, trust your instinct. You can always call somebody on the phone to confirm whether it’s really them. And, never click on a link if you don’t know where it goes.
Benefits of Social Media and Senior Living
One of the benefits of living in a senior living community is assistance with technology. An independent or assisted living facility may give you access to wireless or wired internet in your own apartment or to a computer center. The staff can also help you set up your device, or show you where to find information. These resources make it easy to use social media on a daily basis to stay connected with people you care about and learn new things.