All the advances in Internet technology over the past few decades sure have changed the way people communicate and stay connected with friends and loved ones. Social media is one of those advances. What is social media? Basically, the term refers to a variety of Internet-based technologies that allow people to communicate, interact, and share with other people. If you haven't used social media, you have certainly heard about some of the more popular platforms... like Facebook and Twitter.
Social media can seem challenging, difficult, and even a bit frightening at first, but it gets easier. Most forms of social media are not as difficult to master as you may think. And there is plenty of support around to help you learn the basics and polish up your skills. Many public libraries and senior centers offer classes and workshops designed specifically to help older adults get the hang of using social media, the Internet, etc. They teach things like how to search for any topic using the Internet; communicating by email, online chats, and real-time video; and using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Such classes and workshops usually (and should) provide Internet security tips as well.
If you think only “younger” people use social media and other new technologies, you had better guess again. A 2015 Pew Research Center report showed that 35 percent of adults 65 years of age and older were using social media at the time, compared to only 2 percent just a decade earlier. That's quite a climb! And the percentage is rising as more and more older adults come to understand the benefits of using the tools. In a 2016 study by Michigan State University, researchers found that study participants (older folks with an average age of 68) think social media is easy to use, helps them feel less lonely, and may even benefit their health. See more on our Aging Research page.
Social media has the potential to change the playing field of life as we get older. It can throw doors wide open that might otherwise have closed. Social media allows us to stay connected with our families and friends whether near or far, the tools connect us with rest of the world, and they provide access to information that engages our minds and keeps us current.
From the comfort of our own homes, we can stay involved in what is happening beyond our walls. We can see images and hear news from all over the world. We can communicate with… and even play online games with… old friends or new friends we have never met in person. We can learn more about our favorite topics or hobbies and interact with other people with the same interests. We can reminisce about the “good old day” with people who were actually there. We can learn about different things that will benefit us as we age, such as yoga and meditation. We can stay up to date with advances in medicine and find tips to help us deal with health concerns. We can share our own knowledge and experience with other people and support them through their challenges… and they can do the same for us.
So… if you are not yet a passenger on the social media train as it travels along the Internet track into the future, it is not too late. In fact, it will never be too late to get your ticket and climb on board!