Social media, tech tools bridging age divide

Learning about technology and social media is helping seniors combat isolation. (Courtesy Xion Lester)
Social at 60: Seniors using social media to combat isolation

Neal Augenstein | November 14, 2014 8:43 pm

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WASHINGTON — For any adult who’s ever been frustrated while teaching a parent to operate a DVD or CD player, the notion of trying to explain social media might make you think “OMG.”

Guess what – they’re learning without you.

Claude Butler, who just turned 60, has been taking an intensive course in social media and technology, and rarely goes anywhere without his new iPad.

“I was a little bit intimidated, because I’d never been on a computer in my life,” says Butler.

Butler is part of a new program, AARP Foundation Connecting to Community, that is using technology and social media to combat isolation among senior citizens.

“Most of them have outlived their families,” says Gwendolyn Coleman, program director with Family Matters of Greater Washington, which is sponsoring the pilot program, with AARP, Comcast Corporation, and NETGEAR, Inc.

Current research shows one in five older Americans feels isolated.

“Family members have either passed on, or are no longer in the area, so it’s very difficult for them to communicate one-to-one nowadays,” says Coleman.

Butler lived most of his life in a small town in North Carolina.

“Since I’ve been here in Washington, D.C. I don’t have that many friends,” confides Butler.

Now, Butler feels engaged with the world, as he continues to learn about all the possibilties that come with today’s technology and social networks.

“I love Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare,” says Butler.

Butler says the Internet, in particular Facebook, is proving to be a gateway toward reconnecting with his past, as well as his future happiness.

“I’ve been finding lost friends, that I haven’t seen in a while, trying to connect with them and family members,” says Butler.

“It makes me feel very good, just to stay in touch.”

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