Facebook opens up new ways of communication to senior citizens

For the majority of younger people today, life without social media is unimaginable. Posting pictures and videos, sharing the latest news and keeping on top of events –many aspects of daily life take place on sites like Facebook or Twitter. But do senior citizens use this new technology, and if so, for what? We went along to a social media course at Prague’s Elpida center for the elderly.

Photo: Elpida
Four eager participants have come to Martin Stehlík’s class about Facebook and social media on a Tuesday afternoon at the senior citizen center Elpida, in Prague’s Krč neighborhood. All participants have taken classes here before and are well acquainted with using computers and the internet. Today, however, they want to learn about a social network they are not familiar with– Facebook. Karel Koška, aged 71, says he has heard a lot about it and is curious.

“I want to learn more about it, I have heard that you can send pictures on it and exchange information of all kinds. And I also want to become more familiar with it because I have heard in the news that Facebook can be dangerous, that you can get viruses on your computer or that people can hack your account. So that is one reason I am curious. And then of course, a lot of events in the social sphere are presented on Facebook, and sometimes I see TV reports about that, so that is why I want to learn more about it.”

While the user interface of Facebook is at first confusing to Karel Koška and his former co-worker Jiří Kotlík, who has similar reasons for coming today, the social network can also open up new ways of interaction for senior citizens, especially if they miss being in contact with many people. Věra Firytová is hoping to make some new friends that way.

“Facebook is really interesting for me because it seems that you can communicate with a lot of people that way. Unfortunately, since I have retired, I don’t have a lot of people in my life and I miss communicating with lots of friends and acquaintances. I used to work in a shop and have a lot of people around me everyday. I miss that. So I hope that this will help me meet new people.”

Teacher Martin Stehlík, who has been working with Elpida for several years, says the most common reason for senior citizens to join Facebook is the fact that their children and grandchildren are on it.

Photo: Elpida
“The main reason is to keep in touch with relatives – grandchildren, children. Being able to look at pictures they post, keeping in touch every day, leaving comments, that sort of thing. So I believe that they mostly use it because social media make it easier for them to communicate.”

By the end of the class, the four senior citizens no longer feel overwhelmed by Facebook and the group has quickly warmed up to each other. They may even organize a night in a local pub together soon – by creating a Facebook event, of course.