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October 21, 2008

Seniors "Friend" Facebook... and Mom Just Poked Me!

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My mom called me the other day asking about Facebook. She'd heard about it from some of her friends. I think it's great that they all surf the web, email and watch videos on YouTube, but I was a little surprised when I found out that my own parents are actively part of the social networking phenomena. Soon, she'll be following me on Twitter!

Jerry Shereshewsky, CEO of Grandparents.com, chatted with us about why so much of the older generation is going digital. He wasn't at all surprised—in fact, he said the move made sense. After all, the first computer users were the business people who are today's boomers and grandparents.

"Those baby boomers (and older) who faced off with a desktop computer in the workplace in the late '80s, early '90s, and beyond will remain users for the rest of their lives," Jerry said.

Jerry told me about half of the boomers are now grandparents. Boomers make up a third of all internet users. Millions have started up profile pages on social networks like Facebook and MySpace, according to this study. Perhaps the biggest reasons they go online is to stay in touch with their kids and grandkids.

"As many as half of all grandparents have at least one grandchild living more than three hours distant," Jerry said. "That means infrequent visits. Hence, we’re seeing incredible adoption of video chat, digital exchange of pictures and videos, and even newer technologies coming soon."

Getting Grandma and Grandpa online can be a great thing—both for them and your kids! If your parents, like mine, live far away, the internet is a wonderful tool for chipping away at the distance. Photo-sharing sites like Flickr or Picasa are immensely popular ways to show mom and dad the latest snapshots. If you have a digital camera, you can easily have your little ones make short videos for relatives' birthdays and post them online. Some families even set up blogs so grandparents, grandkids, aunts, uncles, and cousins can all stay in touch.

Jerry told us a touching story of a woman who lived in New York, but had grandkids in Los Angeles and London. During the holidays, she "lit" Hanukkah candles via online video so she could pass the tradition down to her loved ones. Definitely something, I'm sure, that her grandkids will never forget.

If you find your own mom or dad going online more, show your support! You can create your own set of lifelong memories. No matter how far apart you are, it's a great way for the grandparents to get involved with the kids on a daily basis. And who knows, maybe you can write on your mom's Facebook wall the next time the little guy gets sick or you just need some special parenting advice?

Are your parents joining the digital revolution? How do you use the web to keep in touch? Join the conversation by adding a comment below and check out these nifty resources I found.

Mom’s list of fun sites:
Grandparents.com – currently offering an e-booklet of 100 free things to do with grandkids
The Flip Side – from the NY Times—what happens when your kids won't friend you?
AARP’s brand new, online community
reZOOM – news and resource site for seniors
Skype – free phone and video chat over the web

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Comments

OCTAVIA BORDES-KOHN

Good Morning,

Unfortunately I do not have any grandparents that are alive today. I do know of some of my older friends that love to surf the internet like your mom. I have never heard of facebook and do not go on youtube that often unless someone sends me a clip from there for me to see. Everyone surfs the internet now a days. I went to the library about two weeks ago and there where so many people there on youtube and myspace and they were all different ages - not just the younger generation. I think it is just a way for people to communicate and find new ways to interact. You just have to be so very careful especially the young kids because so many predators use these different types of sites to lure kids into a trap. But after all is said and done no telling who you will see on the internet or on youtube. The internet is taking over.

Carol Marak

No doubt our seniors are logging in and perusing the Internet. It's a very useful medium - where else can go shopping and do tons of research without leaving the comfort of home?

I started using the Internet back in early 90's.. wow, has it changed. My mom would watch me and wonder.. "what is that?" She thought I was brilliant!

I love seeing the 50 and 60+ use this remarkable medium. We can all gain so much knowledge about our health... to learning more about other people too.

Maybe it's our pen pal mechanism of the new age!

Margaret Clark-Mayfield

I'm 55 years old and I'm a grandmother. I started using a computer back in the 80's, and I've been online since the 90's. I taught my father (now 80) to use a computer, and he's a big fan of e-mail. Age is no barrier!!

Andrew.B

Hi... This is such an awesome testimony. I take care of my re-tired folks - taking a part in serving that comes from God is so awesome. I think it's very encouraging to send this sort of e-mail out to people. It encourages them to take an active role in someone's life. Thanks!
Blessings,
Andrew

NESIE

Unfortunately, my mom has a MySpace and so do a few of my aunts, which is pretty funny because my mom doesn't even know how to use it much. She actually calls my sister or me for help. But nowadays, everyone is on Facebook and MySpace. The technology is growing and more people know about it and want to be in it, as well. So don't be overwhelmed by it because you're one of the people that have their parent on Facebook or MySpace.

suenman

Yes, if seniors have the skills to surf the internet in order to keep in touch with sons, daughters and grandkids, and highschool friends, this will make their lives more delightful. Also, it is very good for their psychological needs to feel being useful. In the economic side, some can even pick up internet jobs to keep them busy and productive. I set up programs teaching seniors basic computer and internet surfing skills in order to empower and encourage them to live in this technology-savvy society. Once they feel useful, they will take good care of their health and become young and strong. Happy New Year to our lovely seniors.

John

Dealing with seniors everyday, I think most younger people would be very surprised just how many of them know how to use their computers and the social networking sites.

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