We’re all different, but when we are young, and when we get old, it’s like age is all that matters.

I have been speaking to about forty senior citizens about social media. The topic was the benefits of social media for senior citizens, and the experience has made a powerful impact on me.

A tough crowd

I didn’t just talk. I started out asking questions, and I listened to what they had to say. Some of them had used social media for a long time, and some told me that they talk to their grand children in Australia via Skype. Asking questions, and focusing on listening, that’s how I get personal and build relationship.

It was a tough crowd. The youngest was probably 75 years old, and he was professor or something with a brand new iPhone and a regular user of social media. The oldest was 91 years old, and she had never tried a computer, and never been online. I was trying to talk to both at the same time, and that’s the really hard part.

Seniors are so eager to learn. That’s my experience. They just need a little motivation. Many won’t take action unless they either have some kind of social proof, or if they get explained “exactly” what to do. So I showed them my iPad. Each person was able to look at it, feel it in their own hands and try it (read news and watch images). What do you think happened? I was surprised to see the reactions. As I’m writing this, the 91 year old woman is at the store buying an iPad. It will be her first computer.

I talked to them on their own terms, and explained the benefits of social media using examples from their lives. I didn’t mention the latest trends online or any technical details. I based my examples on their feedback about their online and offline activities, and I used examples from the people who were present.

An elephant entered the room

I received a lot of feedback, and the dialog was exciting. All the various people had so many different things to share, and age was never something we talked about, it wasn’t relevant. They use social media like the rest of us.

But, suddenly it was like an elephant entered the room.

One man raised his hand. When I nodded, he stood up. Everybody stopped talking. They looked at him like he was the sheriff in this small town. He started speaking with a soft and gentle voice, a lot different than any sheriff I’ve ever watched in any John Wayne movie. He told us that he wanted to learn how to use Facebook, but he couldn’t find a single course for seniors. Another man said the same, then a woman. In the end all forty ended up saying that they would love to learn more about how to use Facebook. We want a course. Why can’t we find any courses? I heard the words everywhere. They all wanted more.

I was thinking. But I didn’t promise anything. I did some research. They were right. There are no courses on how to use social media for seniors in this town.

I targeted my presentation to use examples from their lives, and during the presentation I didn’t think that age was ever going to be an issue. But it ended up being huge.

If I had told them that I would create a course on how to use Facebook for seniors, I’d get close to 100% sign ups that very minute. They want the course targeted for their age, not who they are.

Age is fascinating.

The one thing

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Comments

  1. Ruth - The Freelance Writing Blog says:

    Jens, I think that you just potentially identified a MAJOR gap in the social media market! I see a new niche blog in your future! What if the blog targeted the CHILDREN of seniors? And provided them with tools and resources to easily set their parents up on Facebook, Twitter, Skype…even eBay?

    I have no doubt that seniors are hungry for access to social media. It has the potential to open their worlds up considerably. Imagine – with social media, you can grow a social network; you can learn about the world around you; you can reach out to loved ones; you can shop; you can express yourself – without ever having to leave the comforts of your home! Potentially more than any other population, social media has the most to offer seniors.

    So, so interesting Jens. This is what I predicted would happen! What are you planning to do with this newfound information? Are you going to follow up at all?

    • Hi Ruth,

      I believe that targeting seniors is a huge market when it comes to social media. They are hungry for more information, and they really want to learn. But they want everything to be specific, with examples related to their lives.

      I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it, but it would have been awesome to create a blog and see what would happen. But I’ll have to finish my novel first :)

  2. Age is fascinating? :)

    Old people are as intrigued as the young and they want to learn too… But the social structure and sometimes the physical constraints keep them from learning these new exciting things. Wonder why their grand-children are not teaching them…

    • Hey Raj,

      Yes, age fascinates me. It can be a blessing, when you’re finally able to get a drivers license, or it can be a constraint. And many times it is a constraint, especially for “old” people. It seems that many of them don’t want to take any courses with younger people.

      I’m not sure why their grand children are not teaching them, but that’s a good question. The “old” people I know don’t want to bother any, so that might be it. They don’t want to ask for help?

  3. Hey Jens,

    That sounds like it was a wonderful experience. I love that the 91 year old is out buying an iPad now. They are so convenient you know.

    I have people ask me as well how to use Facebook and other things which is why I created my free training site. It’s not a course but it will walk you through what you need to do in order to get your account, set up your profile and get going. Of course it needs to be updated AGAIN but I’m waiting until Facebook makes one more change which I hear is coming at the end of this month.

    I can understand how they may find some of this confusing, especially if you’ve never used some of these sites before. Heck, it held me back for quite some time when I first got on Facebook. I found it too confusing myself. At least they want to learn so they can participate and I think that’s wonderful.

    Appreciate you sharing this with us and glad it went real well. Great job Jens!

    ~Adrienne

    • Hey Adrienne,

      The best part is when I am able to change someone’s mind. And the 91 year old woman was so interested, and she couldn’t believe how easy it was to use (she even said that it was cheap). But she needed to test it first, and then hear that other people apx her age was already using an iPad.

      Will there be another update on Facebook already? Oh no. I’ve finally started getting used to it :)

      Do you know if it will be a big one?

      • I bet that 91 year old is going to have a blast with it too. I love watching people learn new and exciting things.

        Yes, Facebook will be implementing the timeline feature and your profile is going to totally change. I heard that it will be at the end of the month so we shall see. You can actually change it right now if you want by installing an app. If you want to do that now, let me know and I’ll send you to a post that will walk you through it. I’ve decided to just wait.

  4. Jens, I’m so glad you gave that talk. You opened up a whole new world for these seniors. It must have been so touching to watch a 91 year old woman who never used a computer before be transformed by an iPad. That sounds like a very touching Apple commercial!

    The purposed of The Wonder of Tech is to help people who feel left behind by the rapidly changing world of tech, but like you in your presentation, I have an audience at various levels of technical expertise (though I clearly don’t have any readers who have never been on a computer, lol!).

    Next month I will be on a panel at a Philadelphia university to discuss mobile marketing with university students. I will be addressing the opposite end of the age continuum from your seniors. I will be interested in seeing if these students are all at the same level with tech expertise or if there are some who aren’t up to speed (I bet there are some who aren’t tech savvy, but I don’t know if they’ll admit it).

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, Jens. Congratulations on really making a difference!

    • I really enjoyed being able to do the presentation, but the dialog, that was the best part. I hope I get the chance to do it again sometime soon.

      What you’re going to do at the University sounds awesome. I’ll be that you’ll get yourself a surprise or two. I always find out things I didn’t know when I’m doing presentations (I haven’t been in any panels).

      Do you know how many people that are going to attend? It sounds like a fairly large crowd :)

  5. Must have been a truly amazing experience for you Jens!

    Moreover, it must have seemed liked a real achievement to have the 91 yes old lady really purchase her first iPad! I think seniors are really keen to learn, and sadly, we are the ones who somehow don’t have the time to teach and share things with them.

    I have experienced this with my own parents and in-laws. There are times when they want my time and attention to learn new things about the social media, like Facebook, Skype, etc. But, they also need to be taught patiently, as these things are new for them. It is almost like teaching a baby to take their first step. I have lost my patience at times, and then understood the art of teaching them things in small baby steps, and that did the trick.

    Age is truly fascinating, and though seniors are much more experienced than us about everything, but about the latest technology, social media and such things- they do look up to us to help them out. I am sure if someone came up with such sites or courses for the seniors where they can learn things at their own pace- it would do wonders in helping them out.

    Thanks for sharing a beautiful post :)

    • I have tried to teach my father, and it’s exactly like teaching a baby to walk the first steps. I’ve lost my patience as well. And I find it fairly hard to teach him alone, but with a group of people, I think I’d do better :)

      • That is true Jens. When the seniors follow a course where many like them are present- they feel much relaxed and better and the teacher teaching them gains the patience and understanding to teach them in a different slow manner as well.

        • That’s exactly what it’s like, they felt so relaxed and in their own environment, and I bet they could learn whatever, because they were surrounding by friends (at the same age).

  6. Interesting, but that is certainly doable for you don’t you think?

    In the social world we play in, even though we usually have a pretty good idea of someone’s age, we don’t really know; and it really doesn’t matter, does it?

    I will be interested to hear ‘the rest of the story’.

    • It’s certainly doable, but I really think that I need to focus, and figure out what I need to focus on :)

      Age doesn’t really matter as long as you have a hot looking avatar…

  7. Jens, this was easily one of the most interesting stories I’ve read in a long, long time. And the fact that you were able to at least get through to these folks and show them a little glimpse of SM and tech is awesome.

    Even better, it looks like you’ve got a serious business opportunity here if you want it.

    Maybe a photo from the event next time?? ;-)

    Keep up the greatness my friend,

    Marcus

    • Marcus,

      This is a serious business opportunity, but I doubt that I’ll do something about it. I need to focus on the novel, before I start anything new. That’s my biggest problem. I can’t seem to focus on one thing at a time, I always try new things.

      I should have taken a photo (or maybe even a video), but I didn’t think that far. I was too occupied doing my presentation :)

      Thanks a lot for stopping by Marcus.

  8. Jens,

    I think that our senior as well as the children age groups are really influenced by what they see around them. When everywhere you turn shows someone on iPhones, iPads, and all, they will naturally get curious. These two extreme groups probably feels that they are left behind. Why aren’t people teaching me this social media and technology stuff? The urge to learn and acquire tools are great but their voices are hidden.

    I know my mother-in-law is craving for her own iPhone because she sees so many around her. It does not matter if she did not even know anything else apart from dialling numbers. Hell, she did not even know how to slide the screen to activate the phone.

    My point is these people need to have voices for them to quell their desire to move with technology. Yes, you will certainly have your niche area fast.

    • Jimmy,

      You’re absolutely right. I look at my father, and even he has own computer and mobile phone, he’s even using Facebook. I never thought this would happen just a few years ago. He bought his first computer when he was 68 years old, and now he’s using it all the time.

      It’s fascinating what’s happening, and especially when it comes to mobile phones. People are using them everywhere and all the time. I remember watching a movie at the movie theatre, and the guy next to me was on Facebook during the movie (it seems like he didn’t watch the movie at all).

      Technology is both fascinating and a little disturbing :)

  9. john Falchetto says:

    Age is what I call one of the ‘big perception myths.’

    We assume that because someone is too young or old he will not be interested or won’t get it.
    As a new father I am forced to change this perception everyday. My daughter loves and understands things that I never thought she would be interested in.
    The same goes for my 78 year old uncle. He picked up Skype, email and web browsing faster than I see some small business owners do it :)

    Great piece Jens and yes to helping people who are keen to learn :)

    • John,

      That’s the same with me as a father and a son. My kids are on YouTube every single day, and they are both using my iPhone and my iPad to do things I never had any idea that they knew. My 70 year old dad is on Facebook, and he’s connecting with family and friends online. That’s amazing.

  10. Brock Blohm says:

    Just proves to show that extreme target marketing is incredibly successful.

    Advertise FB course to the world. How many people would sign up? 1/1000th of 1%?

    How about to elders? Many more

    To elders in an individual state? Even higher percentage.

    Elders in a certain town? The highest turnover yet.

    Extreme niche marketing is very profitable when you know how to do it right! :)

    • Brock,

      Exactly. It was a lot of fun watching them in their right element. The presentation could have been about anything really, as long as they were with the right group of people. That’s really interesting, and fascinating. Because this niche market is huge, and if you get one foot in the door on this one, my guess is that you can get massive success.

  11. Who said that age does matter when it comes to learning? These senior citizens only proved that learning is a continuous process in life. I know some elderly who don’t show any interest in learning about our newest technology so I salute these people who don’t consider their age as a hindrance of learning more.

  12. Hey Jens,

    These thoughts were exactly my way of thinking when I was excited for building a guitar membership site!

    However, I guess that in order to succeed with one of these is to actually be drip feeding the content until some point where you don’t want to keep working by creating videos!

    The comment about the elderly was hilarious man! haha

    (same goes for guitars, the guitar teen kids don’t have any money but the seniors do)

    Just create a few cover songs from the elderly times and then teach that to seniors, problem solved! :P

    Sergio