Many folks think the only ones online are the millennials and although they are very savvy and cannot go anywhere without their devices, it is a misnomer to think they’re the only ones online.
Usage of social networking sites by older Americans has been steadily increasing in recent years, and although it has not reached maturity (59% online) it is growing. Did you know that 46% of older Americans that are online use Facebook? According to International Business Times, more older people (65 and older) are using Facebook than other age segments.
“The biggest growth came among adults over the age of 55. Facebook added 12.4 million new users from this age range, a massive 80.4 percent growth.”
Why do so many older Americans use Facebook?
- It is an easy way to reach out and connect to family and friends.
- It can help fill in the moments when they’re alone and wanting to connect.
- It is fun to see the pictures and catch-up with often distant kids, grand-kids and other family that are too busy or are too far away.
According to Pew Research Center April 3, 2014 research findings state that
- 59% of those 65 years and older go online.
- 71% go online every day
- 82% go online at least weekly.
Ya see, this data is 2014…. and if we look to what was stated in 2009, 2014 and project forward to the next 5 years we have:
We’ve all heard it, right?
We are in an age-tsunami. Everyday another 10,000 people turn 65 years old and will do so for the next 19 years.
As our population ages their needs for online resources and services and their desire to connect and engage increase. Given this, we have the opportunity today to begin planning and implementing the ways to maintain and increase engagement with our aging members – online.
Sure there are those, especially older than 75 years, that don’t go online (or even use email for that matter) for now. Of those professing little to no interest in going online, the most cited reason is because they really don’t know how or are physically challenged.
To help those interested but do not know where to begin, I would suggest offering community workshops to help the older community members get the most out of their online needs? Here are some easy workshop ideas that target seniors especially those older than 75 years:
- Online connection and internet connection speed needed to connect. Where to search. How to do so. How to save bookmarks and gleam the community resources they need like: Senior Center Activities, Church homepage, Healthcare resources, Local Meals On Wheels, etc.
- Facebook page and community set-up and how to use.
- Genealogy search and online (cloud based solutions) that enable them to build their story online.
Among the senior population already online and comfortable doing so, active engagement is much like it is for any other member within your church community although their appetite for relevant content, speaking to their specific needs is essential in order to provide meaningful, long-lasting engagement.
According to AARP, “Looking for romance? If you’re between 40 and 70, it’s likely you’re looking online.” If older Americans are quickly flocking online to find love might they be more online savvy than we give them credit?
Adding your older members connections (Facebook, email, etc) to the member directory is a good start. Developing relevant content* and engaging with them online deepens your relationship. With many of us posting our sermons online, consider upgrading to offer the option to view online (video) and provide a way to teach your older members how to find and listen (watch). If possible provide them a way to engage as well. Perhaps posting questions, create a poll, something for them to work with while listening (watching).
Create ways for them to engage.
Imagine if you were at home unable to make it to your community, how might you want to engage? By taking the time to develop ways for them to feel connected even though they may not be there physically can do wonders to helping them along their spiritual journey. Wherever you can seek ways to leverage technology to deepen your relationships. There are many ways to do so…
*Content is an area of social media that warrants a post all of its own. Soon there will be one.