For senior of all ages, Facebook is an obvious solution for staying in close touch with friends and family and, like owning a pet, is considered an excellent mood-booster — especially for those who aren’t in close proximity to a multi-generational family unit. There are some things to think about when you help your elder “get connected.”
- Attitude. The most important factor in a senior’s life is connection to family and friends. Because Facebook is free and incredibly easy to learn and use, it can become the lifeline to that family connection. We can help seniors develop a positive attitude toward the stimulation, purpose, and benefits that Facebook offers with a few simple steps:
- Tour. Before opening an account for them, take them on a tour of your own Facebook page. Point to the page sections and without using too much jargon, explain the differences between Like, Share, and Tag, etc. Leave them alone to explore your page at their leisure.
- Show and Tell. With them watching, post something, preferably with a photo. Click to another family member’s page and write on their wall. All the while, remember that your choice of words can encourage them to join, or scare them away. Show them that you understand this by using everyday language to explain what you are doing. They will pick up the jargon soon enough.
- Commitment. If things are going well, your senior may be ready to become a Facebook member. Help them sign up only after asking them if they are able and willing to spend a little time to answer messages, respond to friend requests from old buddies, and really want to be involved. If the answer is yes, move on to #5. If the answer is “no” show you understand their feelings and let it go. They may just need time to think about it and talk it over with a buddy closer to their own age.
- Create the Account. Adjust volume and font size if necessary before you begin. Make sure your senior has a valid email address; if not, help them create one using Gmail or Yahoo. Have them fill in the Facebook account creation form and customize their privacy settings.
- Privacy. Help them choose a secure password and learn to log into and out of Facebook with secure browsing if they use a public computer from a library or senior center. Help them adjust their privacy settings and explain that when they share their email contacts with Facebook they are allowing only those contacts to find them.
- Timeline and Tagging Control. Review with them how to remove a tag from a photo or post made by someone else. Go through the Timeline and Tagging settings and choose Friends only. Turn on Review Posts and Review Tags. Explain how restricting who can tag you in a photo is a great way to control who see photos, even if the photos were shared by someone else.
- Personalize. If they need one, take a snapshot with your camera phone, or let them choose their favorite photos for the Profile Picture (180W x 180H pixels) and Cover Photo (851W x 315H pixels).
Help them add information to their profile such as old high schools, colleges, interests, and major timelines. They should add only information they are comfortable giving out.
It’s not just about friends and family either. There are groups on Facebook that cater to seniors, Be sure they understand that it opens doors to learning about finances, travel, health, and interests of all kinds. However, if you’ve gone through the steps only to find your senior is still not comfortable with having Facebook, let it be. You’ve provided the information — it’s their choice to engage in this new world of socialization.