Retirement is made so much more enjoyable with the advent of social media. There are some retirees who will dispute this thought primarily because they have misgivings about the use and benefits obtained from social media. Frankly, most retirees don’t know how they can benefit from social media.
What is social media
Social media encompasses web-based and mobile technologies for social interaction. Many retirees that I speak with believe this is primarily social networking. However, social networking sites are just one element of social media. There are currently six different categories of social media: collaborative projects (e.g., Wikipedia), blogs and microblogs (e.g., WordPress, Twitter), content communities (e.g., YouTube), social networking sites (e.g., Facebook), virtual game worlds (e.g. Social Life), and social markets (e.g. Groupon). These categories will continue to evolve as new forms of collaboration is introduced.
So how do these six social media categories relate to retirement? Knowing a little about each category provides some direction:
Collaborative projects: The best known collaborative project on the Internet today is Wikipedia. The purpose of Wikipedia is to capture information about a topic from people at large. Wikipedia allows people to submit generally or little-known facts about a topic for publication and consumption by online members. Retirees, in particular, may have an extensive amount of knowledge regarding a person, place, or thing that will enhance the understanding of almost any given topic. Other collaborative projects are chat rooms and online forums.
Blogs and Microblogs: Retirees have a wealth of knowledge and opinions which would interest many. Many retirees I know travel extensively and share their experiences with others by maintaining a travel blog. There are also social networking sites that will allow members to contribute blogging materials for other members. A commonplace activity is to establish a group, that is, a retiree group, for the purpose of gathering people with similar interests. In the retiree group, members blog about topics specific to being retired, such as health, finance, travel and other age specific activities.
Content Communities: Like blogs and microblogs, content communities use pictures and videos as a medium for communication. YouTube is the prime example of a content community. Retirees can establish their own channel and communicate with others by posting photos or videos on the channel. Many retirees are not comfortable using this medium because of the relative openness to the internet, but it is a great vehicle for communicating with children and grandchildren.
Social Networking: The best known social networking site is Facebook. Retirees often maintain an account for the purpose of communicating with children and grandchildren. But, there are many smaller sites available to retirees that are generation specific and maintain a smaller member base for connecting with friends of one’s own age group. A great local social networking site is Meetup.com. Meetup allows members to find and join groups unified by a common interest, such as politics, books, games, movies, health, pets, careers, or hobbies.
Virtual Game World: Increasingly, virtual games are becoming popular with retirees. Unlike many of the video games that preceded, virtual game worlds are three-dimensional social meeting places where one takes on an identity in a new world and meets other players. World of Warcraft and Second Life are two very different virtual worlds that have increasingly shown to benefit retirees.
Social Markets: Looking for those deals? Then social markets like Groupon, Social Living, and Buy With Me are three of the best known national group retailers. They obtain discounts from activity retailers, travel destinations, airlines, and other establishments and offer these discounts to their members, generally on a daily basis. These volume deals often result in significant savings of 50 to 60% to the members.
Learning is a never ending process at retirement
How I define retirement is; a time when you elect to no longer be part of your chosen profession, but instead you elect to fill your day with activities that have greater personal meaning to you. This very definition precludes sitting around and doing nothing all day. Current day retirees are very active and seek out personal interests. Sharing personal interests with others are a fulfilling aspect to aging.
I find retirees have one common goal in retirement, it is learning. This often includes learning something that they were unable to address during their working career. Learning helps stimulate cognitive behavior and satisfies a thirst for knowledge that most people have. I know or have met people who take up a new language, research historical topics and write about them while in retirement and many are learning how to improve their computer skills. Regardless of what form learning takes or what the topic being learned, the thirst for learning something new is common and pursued at retirement by nearly everyone.
Using Social Media tools is a great learning environment
Instead of spending the average six hours per day watching television, some retirees find that spending an average of one hour per day experimenting with social media is a great learning experience. There are two benefits for doing so. First, being active on a social network or with a social group will introduce a retiree to people with similar interests. Studies have shown that engaging with others with similar interests promotes psychological well-being and complements physical exercise(1). Also, research continues to demonstrate that participation in social media applications improves cognitive awareness, a benefit to all retirees.
Some retirees are concerned that they will become addicted to their computer by spending time on social media. Addiction only occurs if there’s nothing else in your life to fill your time, and like everything else, moderation of use is encouraged. To highlight the benefit of using social media, a study out of North Carolina State showed that playing the online role-playing fantasy game, World of Warcraft, boosted the cognitive function of older adults who participated. Other role-playing games such as secondlife.com and agame.com are less game like and still provide reality like action. It’s a great way to enter a new world safely and to meet others with similar interests. With just one hour per day of use, the benefits of improved memory function and an improved decision-making skill is possible.