Seniors Getting Social

Southside Times

This article appeared in The Southside Times publication, courtesy of CarDon & Associates.

“I like being able to find information quickly, keep up with friends and family — and also play games online.” That’s what one senior said at a recent event at CarDon & Associates’ Altenheim Senior Living community, located on the south side of Indianapolis at 3525 E. Hanna Avenue.

And that sentiment reflects the general statistics of how much more seniors are getting connected online and getting social in today’s highly digital and wired world.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 59% of adults ages 65 and older use the Internet. And once these older individuals go online, it becomes part of their routine: 71% go online every day, and 82% go online at least weekly.

While most online seniors do use email to communicate with family and friends, half of those individuals are also turning to social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. In fact, Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project said people over the age of 65 are the fastest-growing demographic on social media.

From laptops to smartphones and tablets, digital communication is at our fingertips, making it easier for the senior population to log in and log on, joining the more than three billion Internet users across the world.

For the first time, more than half of all online adults 65 and older use Facebook. This represents 31% of all seniors, as noted by Pew Research Center in its 2014 Social Media Update. And while Pinterest remains popular among younger users, there was an 11-point increase from 2013 to 2014 in the demographic of those 50 and older who use the site.

Why are seniors getting social? A Forbes article said:

  • 40% to connect with family and old friends
  • 30% to share photos
  • 20% for social gaming
  • 10% for contests and games

Each month, one of CarDon’s four southside senior living communities — Altenheim, Greenwood Health & Living, University Heights and Aspen Trace — hosts the “Brunch Bunch.” This group consists of people ages 55 and older who are invited to get to know the community and staff through a theme-based event complete with food and entertainment.

And during July’s “Brunch Bunch,” Altenheim Residential Senior Living Director of Marketing Amanda Bryan asked guests about their use of and feedback on the Internet and being involved with various social media platforms.

The majority of the seniors who responded said they are on Facebook, and almost half use YouTube.

“There were a few who use Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, and even a couple who use LinkedIn, which I was surprised about,” Bryan said. The main reasons for using the social media platforms are because it’s quick and easy to see what friends and family are doing and find out more information about events and other topics they are interested in.

“One senior went into detail about playing Words with Friends, keeping track of recipes on Pinterest, finding music on YouTube and getting needed information by searching Google,” Bryan said. And as for Altenheim residents specifically, Bryan said the majority of them are using tablets to go online.

“We do have some residents with computers, but most of them use tablets bought by a family member for the sole purpose of staying connected through social media,” she said. “I’ve given residents a few tutorials on Facebook, so that is typically the most-used platform.”

Bryan has encouraged residents to like the Altenheim and CarDon pages on Facebook in order to look at resident photos and stay updated on upcoming events, activities, renovations being done in the communities and other pieces of useful information.

“It’s a good way for them to access information and stay involved in the community they live in,” Bryan said. “Keeping engaged with other residents in the community as well as family and friends benefits residents, and seniors in general, on both a mental and emotional level. The online interaction helps maintain that sense of connection so important to their health and well-being.”