Sitting outside a Lululemon in a local mall, waiting for my wife, I noticed an older gentleman sitting next to me who was on his computer tablet engrossed in a Facebook posting. He smiled as he continued typing.
I assumed that he, too, was waiting for his wife. So being kindred husbands-in-waiting and needing to pass the time, we eventually engaged in a conversation about socializing on the internet, our favorite apps, and grandchildren. Finally, my wife exited the store, we went on our merry way, and my brief exchange with my new friend would soon become a distant memory.
While mall encounters can be enjoyable, they very often are casual and fleeting. For more meaningful relationships, like keeping in touch with family and friends, older adults are turning to social media networks. When distance and travel are impediments to maintaining contact, FaceTime and Skype allow face-to-face conversations so that you see participants as well as hear them. Conversations are not limited to just one on one; we can make connections with multiple people at the same time, and everyone can be a part of the virtual “party.” My wife and I have many chats with our two grandchildren, ages five and two when we are transported around the house to see their newest toy, latest art creation, or gymnastic feat.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are used to post and share pictures, videos, comments, and links with family and friends. Using these social media outlets, you can reach many people with one posting. Before these applications, you would need to send letters and pictures to each person separately, which was extremely time-consuming. Now, you can post one image that you can efficiently share with an audience of your choosing, and the recipients can easily share their responses. While you may not be enjoying their company over a cup of tea at the kitchen table, there is still a sense of sharing, connecting, and fostering your relationships.
YouTube is also a great source of entertainment and information, from do-it-yourself home improvement videos to mainstream television shows.
Seniors can cultivate social networks and support systems that previously were not possible and can access more sources of knowledge than ever before. Networking services can also be used for civic causes for the betterment of society, for example, political movements and animal rights. Networks are particularly useful in supporting groups of like-minded people who want to work together in the furtherance of a social goal. Seniors no longer need to attend meetings to participate and express interest in the social causes important to them and for which they wish to raise awareness. They can do so from the comfort of their own homes, and for those seniors who have limited mobility due to an illness or physical handicap, social networking can be a game-changer.
You can also use social media to form or join special-interest communities, such as those interested in the visual and performing arts, sports, books, and photography. The list is boundless. Networking fosters discovery. Those interested in a specific topical interest can usually find an online group that caters to that subject. If not, you can start your specialized group.
The computer age has altered the way we interact with other adults today. It is in our own best interest to stay informed of the many forms of communication available to us using social networking. It makes our interactions with others more accessible and more fun to conduct. Indeed, for many of us, using social media is a part of daily life. Though my wife and I still have a phone landline, we use it less often, finding FaceTime a better communication system even for one-on-one talks.
Computer technology has the capability of enhancing our lives by promoting interpersonal communication. It is up to us to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the innovation and evolution of networking media developed by industrious and ingenious software engineers.
– Joe from Arizona, a FAR customer who is finding purpose in this new stage of his life.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Finance of America Reverse (LLC).