Facebook has become such a cultural norm that it is hard to believe that there are still people that do not have accounts. Facebook has a user base that is the equivalent of roughly one quarter the world’s population, or 1.8 billion subscribers. With that reach and familiarity, the social network has the capability of connecting people in an instant from close relatives to long lost friends to complete strangers.

For this reason, Facebook is an impactful tool for seniors to utilize as they became dispersed or disconnected from friends, family and colleagues. We have highlighted what we believe to be the most effective steps for the modern senior to get started with Facebook, as well as some advanced tools and tips for those seasoned users.

The Basics

Facebook can be intimidating for those unfamiliar with the social network or the advantages to be connected in modern society. For seniors it is important to start with baby steps and progress towards full adoption once they get comfortable with the concept and security of Facebook.

Here are the most useful first steps to take when either setting up your own or having someone close to you set up your Facebook account:

  • When introducing the concept of Facebook, it is important to highlight the reasons that Facebook has become such a popular tool. Explain to the senior that Facebook is best used to stay in touch with people and is a simpler form of communication even than email. For instance, the senior does not need to remember anyone’s email address. Take time to show them your own personal account and how easily you can message a friend, respond to someone’s post or share a recent event with your network.
  • Before signing the senior up it is important to address their biggest concern, which will likely be security. Explain to them that Facebook is a free service and they will not need to divulge any personal or financial information if they do not wish. It is highly recommended that you begin by walking through the Facebook Help page to answer any warranted questions or concerns the senior may have. Allowing the senior to explore the help page for answers to their own questions gives them the sense that they are justified in their concern and being able to recognize that Facebook themselves understand why people would be worried about using the social network.
  • Once the senior feels that they have a good understanding of Facebook, you can move on to helping them create an account. Ensure that the senior has an email address. In order to create an account any individual must have their own email address that is not currently connected to an account on Facebook. If you have any questions regarding setting up an email account you can see our Basic Technology for Seniors article.
  • Now that the basic account is setup, help the senior fill out the details that will allow friends and family to find them. Walk through the importance of the senior picking a profile picture that has a clear view of their face, which helps others ensure they are trying to connect with the right person. Additionally, help the senior link any school or work connections which is another great way for old friends to find each other. Lastly, help the senior choose their preferred security settings. Ask the senior if they want their activity or profile to be visible to the public or only people within their network. To start it is best to have limited visibility, where the public can search for the individual, but the only way they can view the seniors account is if their friend request is confirmed.
  • Next you should help and show the senior how to find people they would like to follow or be friends with. Explain to them that they can become friends with family, friends and colleagues, and if they are so inclined they can like or follow the pages of celebrities, public figures or groups. Walk through how they can do each of these things by requesting to be friends with a handful of known associates or family members, follow a few public figures and maybe join a group that the senior is a part of outside of the internet.
  • Finally, to complete the basics of account setup, help the senior make their first post. Maybe take a picture with them or have them write something that has happened that day. While they are likely exhausted from taking in all of the information, internally they will be excited about the opportunity to connect with so many people, although getting the hang of it may take some time. So be patient for the next few weeks as questions will certainly come pouring in as they look to take their skills to the next level.