Don’t be surprised if you get a Facebook friend request from your grandfather.
According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and the American Life Project, 43 percent of Americans over the age of 65 were using social media in 2013. That’s about three times as many as in 2010.
One of the reasons for this increase in adoption is that many of the thousands of people who turn 65 everyday already know how to use Internet technology.
Laura Carstensen of the Stanford Center on Longevity told National Public Radio last month that one of the notions we have about older adults using social media is not true. It’s not that older adults can’t learn Internet technology; a certain segment of that demographic just have no need for social media because they are happy with their existing rich social circles, built over a long lifetime.
Even so, older adults are among the fastest-growing demographics of social media users in the country. Yet for the past five years, we’ve been so busy studying how teenagers use social media that we almost missed a shift in the make-up of the senior demographic.
A few years ago, a typical response to your grandpa being on Facebook may have been surprise, even amusement. That’s no longer the case. More and more older adults use Internet technology because it makes their lives richer and easier.
Sometimes it’s also a necessity, said Patti-lyn Bell with the Seniors Training in Computer Technology program at Seattle Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens. The office is part of the Seattle Human Services Department. Bell, who is a program coordinator and counselor, works with many people in their 60s, 70s and 80s who are looking for jobs. Finding a job without computer skills has gotten increasingly difficult.
“You won’t believe how many older people are out of work,” she said. “And it’s across the whole spectrum of what they used to do professionally.”
The Office for Senior Citizens also offers computer training for people who just want to learn for personal growth.
“They don’t want to be left out,” Bell said. “They have friends that say: ‘If you want to continue receiving this newsletter, you need to have an email.’ Almost everything is online.”
The specially trained instructors are seniors themselves – two of them in their 80s. The program even offers photo and video editing classes.
“I’ve had photojournalists take that class,” Bell said.
Another local resources for computer literacy, SeniorNet of Puget Sound, offers classes on using the iPad, Skype and Facebook. The interest is clearly there.
As more older adults use Internet technology in their everyday lives, they want to take advantage of everything it has to offer.
Check in soon for the second part of this article, in which Flip the Media interviews a senior who is an avid Twitter user and influencer.
To learn more about Seniors Training in Computer Technology program, contact Patti-lyn Bell at 206-684-0639 or firstname.lastname@example.org.