NOT long ago, my mother did a course in computers and social media. And suddenly I’m getting emails about the dangers of drinking from plastic bottles, using deodorant and walking alone in earthquake zones.
One can politely request friends stop forwarding generic emails but it’s hard to stop a mum from doing what she knows how to do best. Worry. Her older sister has similarly joined the internet age and together they’ve located family in England and resparked many important relationships.
They’re not alone. They are part of a growing new trend of older people joining the internet world. According to a Pew Research Centre report in the US, the fastest-growing demographic for those using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter is 65 and older. This is followed closely by those aged 50-plus.
Move over tweenagers. Computers are being installed in nursing homes around the US and soon here for the many who are trading in knitting needles for Skype. An aged care organisation in the US distributes material teaching people how to email, Google and Twitter. Meanwhile, Photoshop courses offered by adult education include seniors wanting to learn how to make online albums or alter their Facebook shots: “Oh Gran, you’re looking f…a…bulous darling!”
The move to embrace technology later in life is part of an even greater trend that I’ve started blogging about on my website – the trend to reinvent oneself. I call them Life Changers: a huge swath of the population re-educating themselves in new fields, flooding university campuses and adult education courses.
For older generations, being able to use modern technology is leading to new vocations. Olive Riley from Woy Woy, NSW, became the world’s oldest blogger before her death at 108. Others are forging ahead with online business, such as a woman in her 70s who walks past my house every day with parcels she trades. Life Changers from 40s to 90s are gaining new skills in areas of passion never expressed due to the weight of childrearing and mortgage-paying. And it’s a great thing. Reinventing oneself is the ultimate youth serum – as those digitally altered Facebook photos would attest.
Move over teenagers. Computers are being installed in nursing homes around the world for the many who are trading in knitting needles for Skype. An aged care organisation in the US has started distributing material teaching people how to email, Google and Twitter.