Senior citizens are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook, and this doesn’t surprise me. Though I’m not a senior, I personally use social media tools for business, but also to keep up with past and present friends as well as my family. For seniors, using Facebook, has enabled them to get in touch with long lost friends and relatives, see pictures of grandchildren, and learn more about the brands and causes that mean something to them. But there’s more to social media than Facebook and more to senior citizen use than a few family pictures.
I think there’s this myth that anyone over 50 is technically inept, but I don’t believe this is true. Perhaps many seniors might not be as technically savvy as the younger generation but I don’t think all of them are clueless when it comes to laptops and gadgets. Indeed, my own mother who retired at 70 ,designed online courses for accountants and telecommuted for several years. She certainly had her geeky moments, or she wouldn’t have been able to compete with the younger co-workers. When my large family began keeping in touch via a private online family forum, my mother embraced the social network immediately. She also uses Skype to keep in touch with her kids and is thinking about looking into Facebook.
Behold some of the benefits of social media for senior citizens:
1. Keep in touch
Social media is a remarkable tool for keeping in touch, especially for seniors who keep in touch with kids, grandkids, and sometimes even great grandkids, but it’s more than just family. Seniors are finding their college roommates, best friends from “the block” and elementary school crushes. The social networks enable us to view videos, read blog posts, share pictures and have conversations with people who we thought we’d never see again. Grandparents are friends with college-aged grandkids and keeping up with their accomplishments. To say social media has revolutionized the way families connect is an understatement.
Seniors use social media tools to learn more about topics that interest them. In some cases it can lead them to cultivate hobbies and business ideas, and in other cases, such as with all the inaccurate health information available, it can be a confusing mix of resources. However, the Internet is enabling the over 50 crowd to learn more about new products, work on their genecology, and learn something new.
3. Ask questions
I don’t know about you, but I get frustrated navigating the phone menu to nowhere, so do so many others. By using the online tools available, many senior citizens can reach out via Twitter, Facebook, videos, blogs and live chats. Being able to talk to representatives and have all their questions answered, without being intimidated by voices, attitudes and a phone menu that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere, gives folks more confidence in a product.
Senior citizens can watch old television shows and movies, as well as find videos from “back in the day.” They can read ebooks, articles and blog posts, find song lyrics and find out what their favorite entertainers are up to. They can play games, either by themselves or with family and friends. Shut ins or those who can’t get out and around as well as they used to no longer have to feel lonely when they’re home alone.
5. Start a new business
Being online allows folks of all ages to start a new business. Perhaps they can sell crafts or give coaching advice. Or maybe they want to get into freelance writing or some sort of consulting. Many senior citizens would love to work but companies don’t want to hire them as they feel they’re “too old.” With social media and so many online productivity and networking tools, senior citizens no longer have to be forced into retirement.
6. Grow an existing business
Seniors who are still in business need to keep up with new programs and technologies. Social media enables them to stay in the game and compete with younger businesses. Use social media tools to connect and share. Answer questions, promote events and sales and more.
Just because one is retired or out of school doesn’t necessarily mean one wants to stop learning. Seniors are now taking courses online and reading online books, posts, articles and more to keep their minds active. Because seniors are now better able to keep up with emerging technologies, they don’t have to be considered “old and out of touch” and can hold their own in a conversation.
Senior citizens aren’t merely people who are older than us. They’re also people who have been in the trenches. They have amazing stories and brilliant ideas. Through social media they can share all that good stuff with others. Seniors can blog about how life was when they were growing up or how things have changed during their lifetime. They network online and offer advices and mentoring to younger people and students and they can start Facebook pages to talk to others their age.
9. Meet others
The social networks allow us to meet others, for both business and pleasure. (No, not that kind of pleasure, I’m not talking Craigslist.) From online meetings seniors can plan offline meetups and networking events with like minded people and people their age.
10. Find work
65 is no longer the age of retirement for active seniors. Many would like to continue working, if not full time with an established business, they can also consult and freelance. Various networks enable them to find opportunities, post online resumes and view and apply for job listings.
11. Take advantage of sales and online opportunities
By following their favorite businesses and brands, seniors can save money by taking advantage of promotional opportunities. Many times freebies and discounts are only available via a FAcebook page or for Twitter followers.
What are some of the ways you see seniors using social media? Also, if you’re a senior, please share your reasons and successes using social media and its many tools.
About the Author:
Deb Ng is the founder and former owner of the Freelance Writing Jobs network of blogs (sold to SplashPress Media in 2010), and Director of Community for the BlogWorld And New Media Expo. She has spoken at conferences and webinars such as BlogWorld, South by Southwest, Type A-Parent and others, and also the author of “Online Community Management for Dummies” and co-author of upcoming second edition “Social Media Marketing All in One for Dummies.” (Summer 2012)