Social media tools keep seniors connected

Phyllis Golik was looking at electronics when she approached a young salesman for advice.  

“Would you sell this to your grandma?” she asked. 

He replied, “Would you be offended if I asked how old you are?” She said 72 and he said, “My grandmother is 50 and if the electric power goes off, she doesn’t even know how to reset her clock.” 

Golik, who lives in Elizabeth, Pa., uses technology every day to keep in touch via email, chat and Facebook, to download photos from her digital camera, and to send her own videos to friends and relatives around the world. 

“I wouldn’t say that I am completely computer savvy,” she said. “I think I know what I’m doing, and when I get there, woo-hoo! It works. If I run into any problems, I text my 20-year-old granddaughter Allison.” 

Golik worked with computers before she retired and is among the growing number of senior citizens keeping up with technology. 

“I bought my own computer about 15 years ago, and I love it,” she said. “I have a grandson who’s in the service and stationed in Korea, and I talk to him just about every morning. I have family in Georgia, Florida and Indiana, and pretty much all over. I have a year-old great-granddaughter in Florida that I’ve never seen, but they send pictures and I put them in a digital picture frame, so we see her every day.” 

When her brother recently came from Georgia, they took their 91-year-old mother to visit her 97-year-old sister-in-law. 

“I took a lot of pictures and put them on Facebook for all the family to see,” Golik said. “Then I printed them out for both of the ladies.” 

She makes videos on a camcorder, too. 

“My one grandson races stock cars, and I took my camcorder to the races, then sent the video to the grandson in Korea,” she told Our Sunday Visitor. “Now he can see his brother racing.” 

Golik also enjoys a variety of Internet games. 

“Last night I was playing cards with a lady from England, a gentleman from Germany and I can’t remember where the other guy was from,” she said. 

She surfs the Internet for news and information and finds Catholic sites if she has a question about her faith. Her husband, Joe, doesn’t use a computer, but she’ll call him to look at something that she thinks might be of interest. 

Keeping up with world 

When Martha Coyne, 77, and her husband, Jim, 72, of Greenville, N.C., are on the road, he checks masstimes.org on their laptop computer to see where and when they can attend Mass. At home, she uses her desktop computer to read news feeds and to keep up with family and friends with email and on Facebook. She also subscribes to several Catholic online sites, including OSV, American Catholic,Food For the Poor and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. 

Coyne worked for engineers in the Department of the Navy and said that one day around 1985, “They stuck Macintosh computers on our desks.” 

Her husband used a computer when he taught at a community college, but both took classes at a senior center to learn about social media. Now he’s on the computer to contact other members of the Knights of Columbus and for sports news from East Carolina University. 

Coyne emails and forwards things to her children and grandchildren, but she won’t “friend” the younger generation of her family on Facebook. 

“They probably don’t want their grandma as a friend,” she joked. 

Reinventing themselves 

Carlos Hernandez of San Francisco trains professionals to use or learn how to reuse computers for business. Many of his clients are senior citizens or at least older than 50, and some lost jobs before they could retire or are still working beyond retirement age. 

“One woman was a real estate agent in her early 70s, and she was seeing her peers using technology,” Hernandez told OSV. “She wanted to learn to run her business more effectively.” 

A women in her 60s lost her job at a university, but it “didn’t keep her from transforming herself,” he said. She now teaches senior citizens how to use the iPad. A news reporter who was phased out uses the Internet to find clients — mostly senior citizens— who want her to write their family histories. 

“That was just a brilliant maneuver on her part,” he said. 

Hernandez, 54, wasn’t always proficient with technology. 

“I was taking a class from an older instructor and I thought, ‘If someone older than me can be in this space, so can I.’” 

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.

Older Adults and Social Media (sidebar)

A Pew Internet and American Life Project study released last August found that the use of social media has grown among older computer users, with 26 percent of users 65 and older using social networking sites, up from 13 percent in 2009. Here is a look at how Internet users 65 and older use the computer in a typical day:

Twitter - 3%

Use online classifieds - 5%

Social networking sites - 13%

Online banking - 19%

Get news - 34%

Send/read email - 55% 

Source: Pew Research Center

Additional articles from our Senior Living special section:

Older Catholics find romance and companionship online

Catholic radio, TV draw large senior audience

Charities, programs focus on senior needs