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.
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:
Become your own statistic; don’t let anyone tell you seniors and social media don’t go together.
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.
Seniors can use Facebook to stay in touch with family members and reconnect with old friends.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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