Florence Detlor regularly scans photos on Facebook, eager to see what’s new with her friends and family. She is 101 years old. The Menlo Park, Calif., woman says she was “intrigued” when she first heard about the social-networking website and wanted to learn more about it. Realizing that she could use Facebook to keep up with her family, Detlor created an account.
She’s one of a growing number of seniors joining Facebook to connect with grandchildren and former pals. Now, classes that teach the basics of Facebook are popping up.
At the public library in Muncie, Ind., seniors recently learned how to create a Facebook account, use its fundamental features, download photos and adjust the privacy settings to make their accounts more secure.
Ginny Nilles, director of the Muncie library, says seniors are taught by instructors, most of whom have a background in teaching or information technology. She says the library wants to make sure the people it serves know how to use new technology.
Because many seniors don’t send or receive text messages, the immediacy of Facebook is what attracts them to take the class and create an account, Nilles says.
About 1,100 miles from Muncie, seniors in Fort Bend County, Texas, swarmed their community library in August to learn how to use Facebook. Joyce Kennerly, public information officer for Fort Bend County libraries, says the class is open to people of all ages but notes that most students are senior citizens.
“Everyone here is all about Facebook. Seniors don’t realize what it is, but they know it is popular,” Kennerly says. “Kids are saying, ‘Grandma, Grandpa, get a Facebook, so you can keep in touch with me.’ ”
Roy Nugent, 85, says he enrolled in a class at his health care provider’s office in November to “keep up with modern civilization.”
The Hemet, Calif., man says he picked up a few pointers in the introductory class and wants to take another.
Nugent says he wants to stay connected with his four daughters and grandchildren.
Mary Madden, senior research specialist at the Pew Research Center, says Nugent’s reasoning is common.
A recent Pew survey found that people younger than 50 use social-networking websites to stay in touch with friends, and people older than 50 say they use them to connect with family, Madden says.
The number of seniors using social networking is rising. The Pew study out June 6 found that 33% of Internet users ages 65 and older used social-networking websites in 2011, compared with 13% in 2009.
Retirees who use the Internet regularly are 20% to 28% less likely to be classified as depressed, according to a study published in March in the journal Computers in Human Behavior by Shelia Cotten, a sociology professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. This is because of the connection and sense of community that the Internet provides, Cotten says.
Cotten says she once saw an older woman with tears in her eyes after viewing the ultrasound of a soon-to-be family member on her computer.
Not all seniors are ready to join the millions of Facebook addicts.
Retired teacher Betty Goodykoontz, 101, of Birmingham, Ala., has owned a computer for several years but doesn’t plan to create a Facebook account.
The grandmother of four and great-grandmother of four says she inquired about social-networking websites but ultimately decided against using them. “I am just not interested in all those people and what they are doing,” she says.