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AARP-WA Survey of 45+ Shows Growing Tech Savvy

October 19, 2011

SEATTLE - They're trying to get connected, although they're not always sure how to do it - or why they should.

Social media is catching on among those age 45 and older, a new survey by AARP Washington says, and more than 40 percent say they learned it from their child or grandchild. Only one in 10 has a Twitter account, but most have had online video-chats with faraway family or friends.

AARP Washington State Director Doug Shadel says these sites can be valuable tools for keeping people less isolated as they age - and Washingtonians are catching on.

"Over 50 percent of all the people in the state of Washington over the age of 45 are now on Facebook, so it is a huge trend. The other big trend we found is that a huge percentage of the people who are on a social-networking site joined that social-networking site within the last two years."

The survey also indicates that 84 percent are concerned about online safety. AARP is sponsoring a "Get Connected" seminar on Thursday at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond. It is full, but will be live-streamed online at facebook.com/aarp.

Marsha Collier, author of "Facebook and Twitter for Seniors, for Dummies," will speak at the seminar. She says the best way to wade into social networking is slowly: Pick one pursuit, such as Facebook or LinkedIn - or even e-mailing or texting on a mobile phone - and learn that first. She suggests that younger people help parents or grandparents create a blog.

"Anybody can set those up for someone pretty easily, and all they have to do is go there and click 'post.' They can post about their garden; they can post about their children. And you'll be surprised - even if there's no response to the blog, it will give them a comfort factor of going onto the computer and typing a journal."

About 40 percent of the survey respondents said they think social networking is a waste of time. Collier says they're right, if they don't use it correctly. For those who are job-hunting, she points out that it's almost a necessity.

"I know of several people who were connected out of thin air on LinkedIn, to get a job offer. Remember the days of headhunters, having to go through classifieds. It's a whole new world if you're looking for a job."

Even people who are hesitant to social-network will be more interested when they see all the friends and family members with whom they can connect, Collier says, or when they realize they can make money selling things on eBay.

Thursday's Facebook seminar, online at Facebook.com/aarp, will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. PDT. Another "Get Connected" event is slated for Dec. 1 in Spokane.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA