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If you spend any time on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably seen mentions of various reports confirming that indeed, older adults are taking the world of social media by storm.

Here are a few great reads that provide more detail on exactly how older adults are spending their time online – it’s fascinating stuff.

Pew Internet Survey of Adult Social Media Use:

  • 65% of online adults use social networking sites
  • 51% of those 50-64 and 33% of those age 65+ use social networking sites
  • In the past two years, social networking site use among internet users age 65 and older has grown 150%, from 13% in April 2009 to 33% in May 2011.
  • During this same time period, use by 50-64 year-old internet users doubled – from 25% to 51%.
  • Among the Boomer-aged segment of internet users ages 50-64, use of social networks on a typical day grew a rigorous 60% compared to one year ago.

Nielson State of the Media: The Social Networking Report:

  • Internet users over the age of 55 are driving the growth of social networking through the Mobile internet.
  • Over twice as many people aged 55+ visit social networking sites on their mobile phone than last year – a 109% increase in one year.

So it’s well-documented that older adults are embracing social media. That has all kinds of implications for aging – how well-connected we remain with friends and family, access to health and wellness resources online, engagement with virtual communities of people who share our interests and experiences as we age.

What does this mean for older adult service providers? Without hard data, it’s hard to tell, but it does seem as though the provider community is a bit behind when it comes to embracing the opportunities of social media to connect and engage with clients, residents, family members and the broader community.

That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of providers using social media in really interesting ways – they just don’t seem to be the majority. Part of the challenge likely is the fact that despite its rapid growth among older adults in the past few years, use of social media is still a fairly new phenomenon among this age group.

Social media is also a really important and effective way to connect with the next generation of the aging services workforce. Increasingly, access to professional networks, peer relationships, mentoring and continuing education happens online, often via social networking channels. In fact, the Nielson report confirms that more Americans visit Facebook while online than any other single web-based brand.

A few questions I’d love to know more about from you:

  1. Do you, your staff or your clients and residents use social media? If so, how? And what has been the result?
  2. If you don’t use social media to engage with residents and other community members, why not? Are there barriers or reasons you don’t?
  3. Are there any great examples out there that could inspire others? Your own approach or something you’ve heard about? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

And in case all of the data and reports aren’t enough to convince you that seniors are online in record numbers – have a look (and a laugh) for yourself: http://bit.ly/ni687f.

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In honor of Labor Day this week, it’s only fitting to take a few moments to acknowledge the men and women who dedicate their lives and careers to caring for older adults – those who choose this path as a profession, and those who are called to become caregivers when their loved ones need them.

It’s also fitting that this week a nationwide report gave Minnesota high marks as a leader in providing care and services for older adults. A lot of factors must be in place to ensure a strong system of care and support for seniors – good information, access to a range of support services and care settings, flexibility and innovation in how services are delivered and public policies and investments to keep our system strong.

However, even with all of these elements in place, there is one thing that rises to the very top: the front-line caregivers – paid and unpaid – who provide daily care and support for our loved ones.

For those who are not direct caregivers, it’s easy to lose sight of what it really means to care for someone who can no longer take care of themselves. What it means to help with the most intimate daily activities of bathing, dressing and eating, or tending to complex medical needs. It’s physically demanding. It’s emotionally draining. It can be very stressful and sometimes frustrating.

And yet – it’s one of the most rewarding and honorable positions in our health care system. Despite the demands of this role, I’ve heard countless caregivers say the reason they’ve built a career in this field is because it is an honor to be there for someone when they really need it. To provide encouragement and empowerment to help someone else achieve their goals and truly live their life to the very end.

At the Aging Services board meeting earlier this summer, Dan Dixon, president and CEO of Guardian Angels of Elk River, provided a reflection that opened up our first day of work. He talked of volunteering in his own hospice program. One day, after visiting the same man for many weeks, something happened – as Dan was leaving the room after a short visit, the man called out to him. He asked if Dan would sit and say a prayer with him. In that moment near the end of this man’s life, Dan said he was reminded of the powerful impact caregivers have on those they serve.

In some of the most challenging times of our lives, caregivers have the honor of providing support, encouragement, comfort and happiness. This week, we honor those people and thank you for the difference you make every day!

Is there a caregiver you’d like to honor? Tell us about them in the comments section. Better yet – nominate them for an Aging Services Award!

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Aging matters to all of us.

This blog will address the issues, questions, challenges and opportunities that surface as we work to meet the demands of an aging population.

It’s also a place to highlight the people and organizations whose passion, creativity and commitment are shaping the future of older adult services in Minnesota.

Everyone has a story about how aging impacts their life – we hope you’ll join the conversation and share your story.

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