Come Together

By Chelle Cordero

May 15, 2009 4 min read


In-person and online interactions offer valuable connections

Chelle Cordero

Creators News Service

Mention the words "social network" and most of us have visions of computers, the Internet and online communities. For some seniors, these are relatively new to them. Meanwhile, socializing in-person has been going on for years.

But how do retirees and their peers stay connected? While the Internet is an important tool, face-to-face contact is vitally important. Time-honored traditions of in-person social gatherings, meetings, dances and other activities keep many of the older generation active. The problem is this is often dependent on the transportation and facilities available.

"Our members love the bimonthly luncheon outings. Socialization is key for these people, and the outings give them something to look forward to," said Julie Russell, director of marketing at the Norwood Seniors Network, a community outreach program on the northwest side of Chicago for residents living in their own homes. "Having driven the bus myself for a time, I know that members not only talk about their aches and pains but also about grandchildren, current events, triumphs and sorrows. They support each other. Our members tell their families about the great new restaurants they visit and often talk to each other in between outings."

Many seniors have switched to other modes of communication. "There are many ways in which seniors can stay connected, not only to each other but also to their families -- those much younger and those living far away," said Danielle Leitch, executive vice president of client strategy with MoreVisibility in Boca Raton, Fla. One may have them chirping with delight.

"Twitter, a free micro-blogging service that is an easy way to stay on top of people and conduct ongoing, easy, informal communication with peers and families, along with some businesses now too," she explained. "In the U.S., 10 percent of Twitter users were between 55 and 64, nearly the same amount of users as those between 18 and 24, which accounted for 10.6 percent of the total."

It's not the only website out there. "Facebook is even more so on the high-growth scale for seniors, in particular, women," she added. "It seems a likely reason for the growing trend would be tied to family and a hipper older generation wanting to follow their grandchildren and children's growth/happenings.

"One thing we've found is that social networks aren't just for young people. We have been working with seniors across the country to help them become more adept in social networking."

GlynnDevins Advertising and Marketing developed LINK -- a password-protected online community similar to Facebook and MySpace, but built specifically for older people. "These days more and more seniors moving into retirement communities own their own computer, and the most popular online activities for seniors are to send [and] receive e-mail and to get news online," said Brandi Towns, an account executive with GlynnDevins.

Based on their research, the 65-year-old of today has been using the Internet at work for over 12 years. And seniors older than 60 will be a larger and growing segment of the U.S. Internet culture, growing from 17.7 million users in 2006 to 25.3 million by 2011.

Aside from LINK, there are several sites that are geared specifically for the older adult. Silver Planet has a forum and offers valuable information for its members about money, health, entertainment and other important issues. Growing Bolder offers members the latest "buzz" about aging "your way." BOOMj serves two groups -- baby boomers born between 1942 and 1953, and "Generation Jones," born from 1954 to 1965.

No matter whether you are a baby boomer or Generation Jones, the older generation is making their presence known -- both on and offline.

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