Despite the fact that the first Internet users are beginning to enter retirement, many people still believe the stereotype that seniors do not understand or like technology. The reality is quite the opposite for baby boomers and older seniors, who are becoming increasingly interested in tech. In fact, people ages 74 and up have become the fastest-growing social networking demographic, proving that this general impression is no longer true.
Today, the web is not entirely dominated by teenagers and young adult consumers as many mistakenly believe. The fact remains that the original users of the Internet were upper-middle class individuals who were in their forties in the mid ’90s. These individuals were the ones who sparked commercial Internet use for enjoyment and communication, and now these same men and women are entering retirement with plenty of spending money and free time.
In response, some communities provide Internet access throughout their campuses and have installed technology centers for the use of their residents—or even general access to WIFI. By offering these services, communities increase their value while creating more personal living environments for residents. The technology lends itself to easy communication within the residence and provides connections to the outside world through social sites such as Facebook and Skype.
While communities provide access to the Internet and social networking services, seniors still struggle with platforms that are not straightforward or that require multiple steps. Many seniors are interested in connecting with family, friends and the rest of their community through social media sites but are frustrated by multi-step processes and tools required by some of them.
When the seniors cannot easily connect, they are less likely to continue using that specific platform. In failing to simplify online connections, certain sites are pushing away the fastest-growing demographic on social media: seniors.
In response to the need for assistance, more and more social media coaches and courses have sprung up within the past few months, helping seniors get online and stay online. Their goal as coaches is to eliminate the frustration of complicated social platforms so that seniors can connect easily with their families and friends.
Now, thanks to this new surge of coaches, seniors can easily access and use social platforms on the Internet. Services range from coaches visiting homes or walking seniors through the process over the phone to offering small workshops at senior living communities. Connecting to others via the Internet has now become easier for senior consumers than ever before.
Perhaps paying a coach for social media guidance may seem like an excessive and unnecessary expense, but active senior participation on social media sites decreases isolation and depression among the older population, according to a study led by Sheila Cotton, a professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing. These coaches provide a service that can improve the mental state of seniors and offer social interaction by showing grandparents how to interact with their grandchildren via Skype, guiding seniors to sites that help them connect and create relationships with new and old friends, and introducing them to sites like Pinterest where they can learn about and share hobbies and interests.
New retirees increasingly want to stay connected with the rapidly developing world through social media and online networking. To attract these internet-savvy seniors to their communities, senior living residences must respond by providing easy access and orientation to new technology as well as tools like media platforms and technology education for their residents.