Mention social media and the image that comes to mind is often a twenty-something with a smart phone, electronic tablet and the latest laptop with all the bells and whistles. While Generation X and younger Americans have grown up with technology, studies show that the Boomer Generation is part of the largest age group using technology to shop, play, even interact with friends and loved ones.
According to findings by Edison Research, “Americans age 45 and older represent the largest percentage increase in social media users in the last year.” Their data shows that 31% of this age group used social media in 2011, compared to 38% this year.
And you won’t just find these folks on Facebook, either. Many adults are comfortable using Skype, as it helps them maintain long-distance friendships and to keep up with their grown children and grandchildren using a medium with which they are comfortable.
All of this is positive for Boomers who are downsizing to be near family – which separates them from longtime friends. Research has shown that social interaction is nearly as important as regular healthcare checkups. Retirement, “downsizing” and other factors that have posed a challenge in the past now have the potential to be overcome, thanks to a growing number of social media options.
According to Shawn Martin, who teaches social media classes to seniors in Austin, Minnesota, social media helps people stay connected and also helps them grow their circle of interaction.
He said the most common concern he hears from his students is about security.
“Nothing goes on Facebook that you don’t put there,” he said. “If you remember nothing else about security, remember that.”
Other online security guidelines to remember:
- never give your name, address or phone number to anyone on the Internet
- don’t post your age; or post your birth date but not the year
- share personal information only with friends you know (check your Facebook privacy settings)
- if you receive a message that makes you feel uncomfortable, delete it; don’t respond
- don’t open an email from anyone you don’t recognize and use caution when opening links (which could introduce a computer virus)
- don’t announce when you are going to be away from home, and be cautious about posting updates and/or photos while you are out of town
- if you make a purchase on the Internet, it is better to do so with a credit card than a debit card
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