Facebook for Centenarians: Senior Citizens Learn Social Media

Facebook for Centenarians: Senior Citizens Learn Social Media

Assisted and independent living residents struggling with loneliness are learning how to use email, Facebook, and Twitter to reconnect with old friends

As a gateway, the vastness of the Web seems less intimidating, and many of the fears they have about computers and technology are put at ease when placed in the context of a community like Facebook

An engaged member of her community in Birmingham, Alabama, and a retired schoolteacher, Betty knows better than nearly anyone just how important and significant a gift this is. She’s witnessed more than just the digital revolution, seeing an entire world change exponentially over the last century. On her 90th birthday more than ten years ago, she took some time to reflect upon seeing the world and the way in which we communicate within it change so drastically over the last century, in the form of a poem:

After the pony express we corresponded by post; Now email delivers in seconds at most! In encyclopedias we used to get our “info;” Now the Internet tells us more than we want to know!

“I came from the horse and buggy days all the way to outer space,” Goodykoontz says. “I’ve seen amazing things happen, and the technology — the iPhone and everything that has developed since just then . it blows my mind to see what we have now and where we came from.” For the centenarian, it’s the computer that has been the game-changer: “It’s a wonderful thing. For those of us that can’t get out, we can bring the world in.”

As adults move into older age, the spatial and social barriers they encounter start taking their toll. Isolation, loneliness, and depression are commonly experienced as family and friends move away and are less accessible, and as individual mobility and independence start to decline.

An upcoming study to be published by Dr. Shelia Cotten, a sociologist and Associate Professor from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, reveals that Internet use was associated with a 30 percent ong older adults who used it regularly, while other studies have shown similarly impressive results.

Betty Love Goodykoontz turns 101 on September 1 and, this year, she’s giving a gift to her loved ones instead of receiving one

The 74-plus demographic is the fastest growing demographic among social networks, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet https://kissbrides.com/pt-pt/easternhoneys-revisao/ & American Life Project, and social networking among Internet users ages 65 and older grew 100 percent between , jumping from 13 percent to 26 percent. Facebook, Twitter, and Skype all show the most growth in the older adult demographic and with 39 million people currently aged 65 and older — and an estimated 55 million by 2020 — social networks are sure to continue to see a surge in their older base.

In a panel at last year’s Annual Scientific Meeting on Aging, Dr. Laura Carstensen, the director of Stanford University’s Center on Longevity, explained that social networking is proving more and more to be an entrance into technology for older adults. Carstensen likened the site to genealogy on steroids — a source of instant connection for adults who live increasingly isolated lives in assisted living facilities and away from their families, often struggling with depression as a result.

Senior centers around the country now offer computer classes that branch off into specific courses focusing on social networking and teaching older adults how to engage with these tools — and they’re growing in popularity. In Newport News, Virginia, the city recreation department offers a wide range of computer classes geared towards the senior set, ranging from “Computer Basics,” “Beginning Word,” and “How to use a USB,” to “How to Use Facebook,” “How to Use MySpace,” and a two-session course dedicated to YouTube. “Internet Safety” is available for new users to gain knowledge about protecting their privacy online, one of the biggest concerns for older adults new to the Web.


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