As my mom puts it, she “has bad luck with technology.” She may live in Silicon Valley and be married to a software programmer, but Mom has always struggled with anything tech-related.
Mom uses a computer from the early 2000s. She needs help to send emails and format documents. Every time I visit, she has something for me to fix. A year ago, Mom got her first smartphone.
And now? You can’t separate Mom from her phone. She messages her friends more often than I do. She’s now a pro at all things social media.
Social media has completely changed the way Mom keeps in touch with her friends. I’ve witnessed firsthand how big of a change it’s made in her life. And she’s not alone—seniors across the globe are more connected than ever. Here’s why you should encourage your aging loved ones to get into social media.
Reconnecting with old friends
One of the first things Mom did was to look up her friends from high school. She had moved from New Jersey to California and fell out of touch with them decades ago. The day she found them on Facebook, I don’t think I’d ever seen her so excited.
Mom reconnected with her best friend, learned that her high school reunion was coming up and spent hours learning what her friends had been up to over the years. She has reconnected with her hometown in a way she never thought possible.
Keeping in touch with family
My mother loves her sister, but their schedules don’t allow for regular phone calls. Luckily, messaging apps have come to the rescue. Between sharing pictures of their meals, political cartoons and daily cat memes, Mom and her sister are closer than ever. They can share their lives without having to sync their schedules.
Learning about local events
Food trucks in town? A sale at the local antique store? With event notifications coming directly to her phone, Mom knows about everything that’s going on. In fact, she knows more about local happenings than I do!
Mom used to always learn about events a day or two too late. With her phone’s calendar, she no longer worries about what she’s missing. She’s up-to-date on what’s going on now through next month.
Staying on top of neighborhood news
Mom is a member of our local Nextdoor group. She and the neighbors share warnings about rowdy kids, notices about construction, sightings of potential thieves and anything else of interest to the neighborhood. Mom loves to share the crazy stories she finds in the app and always forwards the useful tidbits about traffic or construction. Her neighborhood group has enhanced her connection with her community.
Organizing fun with friends
Mom used to see her church friends just once a week, but not anymore! Thanks to social media, Mom and her friends are constantly going out to dinner or traveling to interesting places together.
I’ve watched my mother’s network of friends expand and deepen like never before. If Mom is ever lonely, she is just a message away from good pals and laughs.
Bringing Mom on a long car trip? Chances are, she will be “liking” photos and playing videos on her smartphone. I’ve noticed that my mother no longer complains of being bored—there is too much for her to do online. Social media is perfect for filling the gaps in her day.
Learning about the issues
Mom is big into politics, and social media helps her follow her favorite politicians, social commentators and authors. She keeps up on the issues and learns about current events as they happen rather than waiting for the nightly news recap.
For many seniors, retirement can be boring. Sixty-five may be the official retirement age, but that doesn’t mean everyone 65 and over automatically wants to stop working. The Internet can help connect older adults with opportunities that canbe tough to find otherwise.
For the best health and quality of life, seniors need to keep their brains and bodies active. Working (or volunteering) allows seniors to share their knowledge, make some extra income and give back to their community.
After some online searching, Mom joined our town’s education committee to influence how the coming generation is taught. She loves being a voice for change.
Staying active with social media
Before social media, my mother spent most of her time reading at home. She would go out to church once a week, and that was pretty much it.
Now, with her smartphone in hand, Mom is always doing something interesting. I’ll come back home to visit and she won’t be there—Dad will tell me she’s off at one of her meetings.
Mom is making a real difference in her community. She’s involved in her town’s school board, joined a board of directors and is part of the leadership community at her church. Her smartphone and social media helped make that possible.
Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.