Baby boomers get connected with Facebook

Carol Stream, IL

With nine siblings, Catherine Biebel, 50, doesn’t always have the time to keep tabs on everyone with a phone call or visit.

But the Carol Stream resident is still able to have impromptu family reunions almost every day. They just happen to be on Facebook instead of face-to-face.

“My son originally encouraged me to go on it,” Biebel said. “Then I had a friend mention she’s on it and that I should do it. I finally signed up.”

With family members spanning the country, Biebel said Facebook helps her stay connected.

“I read what’s going on with all of my nieces and nephews on the east coast and west coast. My cousins are on it,” she said. “It’s a way we can all keep in touch.”

Biebel is one of many in the 50-and-older crowd who are becoming the fastest growing group of Facebook users, according to a study by AARP.

Nataki Clarke, AARP’s vice president of marketing, said there are a few reasons social networking is growing in popularity among older adults.

“The first is that it’s so ubiquitous,” she said. “You hear Facebook and Twitter mentioned so much.

When you look at the evening news, you’re told to follow (news anchors) on Facebook and Twitter. It definitely becomes a part of every day vernacular.”

The AARP survey also showed a trend of older adults being introduced to Facebook and Twitter by their children.

“And even though they’re being introduced to it by their kids, they end up friending lots of other family members,” she said. “It first started out as a place to monitor their kids or grandkids, but it’s turned into a resource for their everyday lives to stay in touch and up to date.”

Carol Stream resident Judy Gale, 71, hopped on the Facebook bandwagon about six months ago.

Today she has about 100 friends.

“My children and grandchildren are on it,” she said. “Plus it’s a way for me to keep in touch with people I used to work with.”

She also likes to follow authors on Facebook and news sites. And though she gets many friend requests, she does not accept them all.

“You do have to be selective, I’m finding,” she said.

While navigating Facebook has been  easy for Gale, she knows she can turn to her grandchildren with questions.

“These kids are pretty savvy about using the Internet,” she said. “They give me some help.”

Carol Stream teen Amanda Friedman said several baby boomers in her family have embraced social networking.

“Almost all of my aunts and uncles have joined (Facebook), and we keep in touch that way,” she said. “It’s nice for the older people too because Facebook makes it easy for them to find old classmates.”

She said Facebook is simple to use.

“And as society becomes more dependent on technology, older people will find it easy to use and a good way to connect with people they know and family,” she said.

Some local libraries hold programs to get older adults up to speed on social networking. Earlier this month, the Bloomingdale Public Library hosted Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers, who gave tips on how social networks like Facebook can be used for genealogical research.

Meanwhile, Carol Stream Public Library has a number of books in the collection on how to use the websites for personal and business use.

It’s no surprise to Gale that those in her age group are flocking to Facebook and other social networking sites.

“We’re a hip group,” she said with a laugh. “We’re full of knowledge and we have nowhere to go so we go to the computer."

Learn more
WHAT Using the Internet class
WHEN 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 16
WHERE Bloomingdale Public Library, 101 Fairfield Way
INFO (630) 529-3120, mybpl.org

Of adults 50 and older surveyed …
40 percent consider themselves extremely or very comfortable using the Internet
27 percent say they use social networking sites
23 percent use Facebook
63 percent were introduced to social media Web sites via their son or daughter
Source: AARP