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Social Media for Older People: A Helpful Guide

• Written by Katie

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For many people, it's hard to imagine life without the internet. The world wide web has totally changed the way we work, shop, and communicate. In part, that's thanks to social media. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube keep us connected, no matter how far apart we are. But aren't they just for teenagers and young people? Not at all! According to a recent Ofcom report, nearly half (48%) of internet users aged 65-74 have a social media profile. For over 75s, that figure is 41%. However, some older people are at risk of being left behind by the social media revolution. With this in mind, we've put together a detailed guide to social media for older people.

The Benefits of Social Media for Older People

If you've never used social media before, you might be wondering why you should start. In the last few years, social media has become immensely popular with people of all ages. There are plenty of benefits when it comes to social media for older people.

Fighting Loneliness

Firstly, social media connects us with our friends and family. This is especially helpful in the fight against loneliness. Loneliness is a huge concern for many older people in the UK, particularly since the coronavirus pandemic began. More than half of people over 75 in the UK live alone. Naturally, isolation has a detrimental effect on mental health. But did you know that it can also affect your physical wellbeing? According to a 2010 study, loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Furthermore, lonely people are more likely to develop dementia and heart disease.

With this in mind, the social benefits of sites like Facebook and Twitter seem clear. Social media for older people is a convenient way to keep in touch with loved ones near and far. What's not to like?

Reconnect With Old Friends

Since so many older people are using social media these days, the chances are that lots of people you know are online. This likely includes people who you may have lost touch with over the years.

Once you sign up for an account, why not try searching for an old school friend or work colleague? You can even filter your searches by age and location - if you know your old friend's birthday/year or the city where they live, you are even more likely to find them. From there, it is easy to send them a message and start catching up!

In the past, it was all too easy to forget somebody's phone number or lose an address and then have no way to reach them. Gone are the days of losing touch with loved ones, thanks to social media.

Stay Up To Date With The News

Newspaper sales have been on the decline for some years. It would seem that social media is at least partly responsible. As a result of websites like Twitter, it is now easier than ever to keep track of current affairs as they unfold. What's more, users can choose to receive news alerts from trusted sources like the BBC when important stories break. This is another great benefit of social media for older people. Now, instead of seeking out the news either in a newspaper, on the radio, or on TV, the news can come directly to you.

 

Boost Your Income

As far-fetched as it might sound, there are plenty of people (of all ages) who make their living on social media. From so-called 'influencers' on Instagram to video-gamers on YouTube and Twitch, there is plenty of money to be made online. People with popular social media accounts will often make sponsorship deals with big brands, or offer premium, exclusive content for a subscription fee. On platforms like YouTube, revenue from advertisements makes up a huge chunk of online income.

Keen video gamers often post live videos of themselves playing their favourite games (known as 'streaming'). This is a lucrative business! 83-year-old American grandmother Shirley Curry has more than 200,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, making her the world's oldest professional streamer.

Impress the Grandchildren

Lots of older people believe social media is just for teenagers. Similarly, many younger people believe that older people just don't understand social media. Of course, we know that both of these beliefs are false. How satisfying would it be to show off your social media skills to the young people in your life? Imagine surprising your grandchildren with a Facebook friend request or following them on Instagram!

Most Popular Social Media for Older People

The benefits of social media are pretty clear. But how do you get started? Which websites should you sign up to? Next, we'll answer all these questions and more.

Facebook

Facebook is perhaps the most widely-known and well-established social media site out there. It's been around since 2004, when it was founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow Harvard students. With more than 30 million users in the UK alone, it is by far the most popular platform and an excellent example of social media for older people.

With a Facebook account, you can send friend requests to people you know. Once you are 'friends' with another user, you can like and comment on each other's posts and send each other messages. Alongside profiles (regular accounts for everyday users like you and me) Facebook also features pages for just about any organisation you can think of. From A List celebrities to tiny local businesses, there is probably a Facebook page for everything.

In addition, Facebook's Messenger feature allows you to make voice calls and video calls for free. This will be particularly useful for those who have friends and relatives abroad. Say goodbye to pricey international call rates!

Social Media For Older People - Facebook

Twitter

Twitter might not have quite as many users as Facebook, but what it lacks in numbers it makes up for in speed. Posts on Twitter (otherwise known as Tweets) have a 280-character limit, making them very easy to read and write quickly. Once you have signed up for a Twitter account, you can Tweet to your heart's content. Anyone who 'follows' you on Twitter will see your Tweets on their news feed (also called a timeline). Similarly, you will see Tweets from anybody you follow on your timeline. You can follow friends and family as well as celebrities and other public figures/organisations.

Twitter is also home to the hashtag. A hashtag is a way of indicating the topic you're talking about. Clicking on a hashtag will show you other Tweets discussing the same topic. You can also search for a particular hashtag, but remember not to include any spaces between words. For example, to find Tweets about your favourite baking show, search #GreatBritishBakeOff

We've included Twitter in this guide to social media for older people because it's a great source of news as well as social interaction. When lots of people Tweet about a particular topic, such as a news event that is currently unfolding, the topic will 'trend'. Trending topics are easily visible, meaning that users can follow current affairs with ease on Twitter. In our hectic modern world, it's more important than ever to stay up to date.

 

Instagram

For the more visual thinkers out there, Instagram is a great example of social media for older people. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, where the primary focus is on text posts, Instagram puts images front and centre.

Anyone with an account can post photos to their personal profile. By default, your profile will be public, meaning anyone can discover it and become a follower. However, you have the option to make your profile private. This means that friends and family can still find your profile, but they will need to request your permission to follow you and view your posts. Instagram also uses hashtags to organise different topics. From holiday snaps to arts and crafts, there is sure to be something for everyone.

Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms, with more than 100 million photos uploaded to the site every day. You can fill your Instagram feed with things that make you happy by following profiles that relate to your interests. If you are a keen cook, follow celebrity chefs and amateur food bloggers for gorgeous food photography. If you are an avid movie-goer, follow your favourite actors to see film trailers and behind-the-scenes snaps.

Social Media For Older People - Instagram

Pinterest

Pinterest is slightly different from the other social media platforms on this list. It's a little more like a search engine, which allows you to 'Pin' images and websites you like to your personal 'board'. You can create as many boards as you like with different themes. Pinterest is a great way to organise ideas or prepare for a project. For example, you could use it to plan a holiday or prepare to redecorate your home.

You can also follow your friends (or follow particular boards) and search topics like recipes, gardening, or fashion to look for inspiration. Once you follow new people or boards, their contents will show up in your 'home feed'. Pinterest will also show you Pins and boards they think you will like, based on your interests. If you see something that you know your friend will love, you can send it to them directly in a message. You can also work together on group boards. If you're using Pinterest to plan a surprise party, for example, you can make your board secret. This gives you control over who can see your boards.

YouTube

The last platform on our list of social media for older people is YouTube. This is the world's biggest video-sharing website, with an estimated 2 billion users worldwide. Anyone with a YouTube account can upload videos to their own YouTube channel. You can also subscribe to other channels and watch videos from creators around the world. In addition, a YouTube account allows you to like and comment on videos and save videos to your own personal playlists.

Here are some ideas for playlists you might want to create:

  • Your favourite songs and music videos
  • Exercise routines
  • DIY instruction videos
  • Arts and crafts tutorials
  • Recipes and cooking guides

YouTube is also a great educational resource. There are videos on all kinds of subjects, from chemistry to literature and everything in between. YouTube's handy search feature helps you find the videos that interest you quickly.

If you are so inclined, you can also post your own videos to YouTube. Since August 2018, YouTube has been the second-most popular internet site in the world, just behind Google. Therefore, you're more than likely to find an audience out there somewhere.

Social Media For Older People - YouTube

Protecting Yourself on Social Media

Venturing into the world of social media for the first time can be very exciting. However, it's important to think about your safety online. Overall, there are a few things to bear in mind when it comes to internet safety. Don't worry though; we'll go through the main concerns here.

Choosing Secure Passwords

One of the best ways to protect yourself online is to choose a good, secure password. BT has provided some helpful guidelines for password selection:

  • Don't choose anything too obvious. Avoid including your name, your town, or your date of birth.
  • Aim for a minimum of 8 characters.
  • Use a variety of letters, numbers, punctuation, and spaces.
  • Avoid using the same password for every site. That way, if somebody gets hold of your password for one account, they cannot gain access to all your other accounts.

We also recommend using a password manager. These are apps which keep all your passwords safe. In addition, they also eliminate the need for you to remember all your passwords. Therefore, a password manager is perfect for the more forgetful among us.

Social Media for Older People - Passwords

Privacy Settings on Social Media for Older People

Lots of older people have concerns about their privacy online. This is perfectly understandable, but don't let it stop you from enjoying social media. It's absolutely possible to enjoy social media while keeping your information safe. Every major social media platform allows its users to control their privacy settings. Generally, these settings let you decide who can see your online profile. Specific options will vary from website to website. Luckily, you can find all the details in the articles below:

Warding Off Trolls

So-called internet trolls are people who post offensive or malicious content online, in an attempt to cause distress. Unfortunately, 'trolling' has become more common since the advent of social media. This might be one of the drawbacks of social media for older people. However, there are ways to push back against this sort of harmful behaviour.

One widespread piece of advice is 'don't feed the trolls.' Anyone who engages in 'trolling' is just looking for an emotional response from their target. By denying them the reaction they want, you aren't letting them win.

What's more, you can block, mute, and report people on every major social media platform. For anyone who isn't familiar with these terms, you can find definitions below:

  • Block: prevent the person in question from viewing your profile or following you online; prevent their posts from appearing on your news feed. The person you block will usually know that you have blocked them.
  • Mute: Prevent the person's posts from appearing on your news feed. They will not know that you have muted them, so you won't be flagging the fact that they've upset you.
  • Report: Submit a particular post or account for review by the social media site. Depending on their processes, they might delete the offending post, suspend the user temporarily, or delete the user's account altogether.

Since the Communications Act 2003, malicious trolling is a criminal offence. You can therefore report trolling to the police by dialling 101. It helps to take screenshots of the posts in question to submit as evidence.

Internet Scams

Overall, the internet is definitely a force for good. However, a few people will always try and exploit others for their own gain. Online scams are where criminals try to convince people to hand over money or personal information. Common internet scams include emails claiming to be from your bank asking you to confirm your account details and copycat websites posing as trusted platforms like Facebook, government websites, or HMRC. Which? has a guide to online scams which you can read here. So, how can you avoid an online scam?

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
  • Be wary of messages which use unspecific greetings, like 'Dear Customer' instead of your name.
  • Be wary of messages which have a sense of urgency - they might threaten to close your account if you don't respond quickly.
  • If a message includes a link, examine it very carefully before clicking. Even if it looks like the right website address, it might actually be slightly different. Instead, type the name of the website into your search engine yourself.

In Conclusion: Social Media for Older People

All in all, social media is a great tool for older people to stay in touch with friends and family in our modern world. While you may have some privacy concerns, it is easy to protect yourself and enjoy the many benefits of the online world. The internet can be a great source of information and inspiration too. Whether you're looking for new hobbies or hoping to reconnect with old friends, we would definitely recommend giving social media a try.

Personal Alarms for Older People

In this article, we've discussed staying safe online, but what about staying safe in your home? Our life-saving personal alarm service offers you 24/7 protection 365 days a year. If one of our alarm users feels unwell or has a fall, they simply need to press the button on their pendant. This will connect them to our Emergency Response Team, who will assess the situation and send assistance directly to their home. Usually, this assistance will come in the form of the user's Emergency Contacts. We recommend choosing friends, family, and/or neighbours for your Emergency Contacts. When there is a medical emergency, our team will also call the emergency services.

To find out more, you can read our brief guide to the Lifeline alarm service. Alternatively, you can call our Customer Service Team on 0800 999 0400 or fill in the Contact Us form on our website.

 

Editor's Note: This article was updated on 18th November 2021 to reflect current information.

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