Most people assume that seniors dislike social media sites—or modern technology in general. This is a misleading stereotype. In fact, surveys show that 69% of adults aged 50 to 64 use social media, while 40% of seniors over 65 are at least familiar with these platforms.
Although, the generalization that seniors dislike modern technology isn’t completely baseless. If you have an elderly relative, then you likely know first-hand the struggle of explaining simple tasks such as turning on a computer, sending text messages, or surfing the internet to seniors. These tasks require a lot of patience.
Considering that most seniors are technologically challenged, is it still a good idea to have your close elderly loved ones learn about social media platforms? Definitely!
Getting a senior to go online and sign up for social media offers multiple psychological, emotional, and even physical benefits. You just need to have the right approach on the subject. Understand their pain points, provide them with the necessary support, and guide them throughout the learning process.
How Do Seniors See Social Media
Surveys show that many older adults think social media sites are superficial platforms built for self-absorbed, narcissistic individuals. Some even say that technology is a bad influence on the youth.
Nevertheless, the amount of seniors on social media websites continues to rise. In fact, the numbers have already started increasing about a decade ago. A 2009 to 2010 survey by Pew Research Center reveals that the amount of social media users over 50 doubled from 22% to 42% in the span of one year.
In 2017, the Pew Research Center conducted a similar survey. The results showed that after just seven years, the number of seniors on social media has increased drastically once again. Findings state that more than 1/3 of adults over 65 are now online.
Now, if seniors dislike the idea of social media network sites so much, why do they continue to use them? Here are some of the things that entice seniors into using the internet:
News and Current Affairs
All mainstream media outlets are on social media. Large networks like BBC News, CNN, and CNBC regularly post updates on various platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can even have them send push notifications on breaking news stories.
On top of that, major publications such as Time, The Guardian, Reader’s Digest, and National Geographic are available online. Flipping through articles on a smartphone is far more convenient than carrying around multiple magazines.
Reconnecting With Highschool and College Friends
It’s not unusual for one to lose touch with old friends after spending a few decades apart. In some cases, you might not even know where your friend lives or how to get in touch with them anymore. This issue can easily be resolved if one were on social media.
On platforms like Facebook, you can find out various details about any user just by typing their name in the search bar. You can even connect and chat with them again. This type of instant engagement is not achievable using traditional snail mails, emails, or even SMS messaging.
Pictures of Grandchildren
If there’s one thing the elderly love, it’s grandchildren. You’ll often see seniors doting on toddlers and babies for hours on end whenever they get the chance.
The moment they realize they can see more of their beloved grandchildren if they’re on social media, you can count on them to sign up for an account as quickly as possible. Some even go out to buy their first smartphone for the sole purpose of connecting with grandkids.
Most Common Concerns Seniors Have Regarding Social Media
Despite the increasing number of senior users on social media, statistics show that this user demographic doesn’t spend too much time online.
A recent survey shows that older adults aged 55 to 64 spend an average of 1 hour and 53 minutes scrolling through social media sites, while younger adults are a bit higher at 2 hours and 45 minutes daily. On the other hand, reports say that teenagers spend at least a whopping 8 to 12 hours online every day.
If social media platforms can easily replace multiple mediums including newspapers, radios, and television sets, why aren’t older adults spending more time on these platforms? Here are some of the most common barriers seniors encounter regarding technology:
Lack of Support and Resources
A study by the UMEA University in Sweden reveals that the number one reason why there are still plenty of seniors who do not know how to utilize social media is the lack of available support and resources.
Nursing homes do not have specialized programs geared toward technological education for the elderly. Similarly, for seniors aging in place and living independently, seeking help wouldn’t be an option unless you have a relative close by.
High Price Tag
Smartphones and laptops are quite pricey. The average smartphone costs about $1,000, while the average retired salaryman in American receives about $1,514 per month from Social Security. That means most seniors would only be able to get a smartphone if they drastically cut back on expenses.
Steep Learning Curve
The utilization of technological devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops has a steep learning curve. This isn’t something you can teach in just one or two days. In fact, the reason why digital natives have mastered modern devices is they’ve been using these gadgets from a very young age.
Another major concern seniors have with social media is that these platforms might not be secure. Yes, social media usage threatens your privacy to a certain degree. However, there are also multiple ways to reduce the risk, secure your data, and prevent crooks from taking advantage of your profile—these include:
Setting Profile to Private
Most social media platforms allow users to set their profile to private. Make sure all your personal information, posts, stories, and pictures are only available to your friends, followers, or connections.
Withholding Certain Information
A common mistake people commit is sharing too much information online. Be more private. Don’t be too quick to post your location, address, and contact information, among other sensitive information.
Routinely Updating Password Details
No matter how secure you are, there’s always the possibility of skilled hackers acquiring your login details. The best approach here is to update your password every month or so. That way, even if someone does get a hold of your login information, they still won’t be able to access your account.
3 Benefits of Having Seniors Go Online
1. Easy Long-Distance Communication
Perhaps the primary benefit of having seniors go online is giving them access to the best, most powerful long-distance communication devices available. Nothing in the past decades can compare to what smartphones and social media have to offer. In fact, you can hop on a video call with someone from the other side of the globe and interact with them in real-time using simple social media applications like Facebook Messenger.
2. Peer Interaction and Engagement
Social media can also provide seniors with a lot of activities. In fact, even someone past 65 can still meet new friends and acquaintances by connecting with people they share the same interests with.
For example, let’s say you’re into mystery novels. You can join a Facebook group that solely discusses these types of books. Then, interact regularly with the members, connect with like-minded peers, and if you hit it off, you can even meet some of them in real life for coffee or lunch.
Note: Joining a book club is just an example. Facebook has millions of groups and pages with varying themes. Just type your preferred hobby or subject in the search bar, screen the results, then go with the group that has the most active members and engaging posts.
3. Business Networking and Gig Postings
Contrary to popular belief, not all seniors choose to stop working after retirement. Many would consider themselves semi-retired and actively seek out new business ventures or take on freelancing gigs. For those who belong to this category, they can further fuel their venture by networking on social media.
If you’re looking for side gigs related to your previous job, go on LinkedIn. Create a profile so you can reach out to prospective clients, get the latest job postings, and have a platform where recruiters can contact you.
Meanwhile, SMBs can market themselves on Facebook. The Facebook community consists of a wide range of users, from teenagers to older adults who are also past retirement. Whoever your target market is, you’re bound to find them here.
Having seniors learn to use social media platforms allows them to reconnect with various people and meet new people that they share interests with. Remember that a healthy social life is not something most seniors in the country enjoy.
Just be patient when teaching seniors about modern technology. Unlike digital natives, they didn’t grow up with access to modern gadgets such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. At best, they only had radios and television sets. Encountering a few challenges and difficulties during the learning process is to be expected since they’re using modern-day devices for their first time in their lives.
Also, make sure to educate your senior loved ones about the dangers of the internet. The last thing you’d want is to have your grandparent sharing sensitive personal information to sleazy scammers online. If possible, restrict the accessible sites.
What do your senior loved ones think about social media? Share your and your family’s thoughts with us in the comments section below!